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  1. VGS Homebrew on the Horizon: Whereas the purpose of the VGS Homebrew Almanac is to keep an up-to-date list of cartridge homebrew releases that are currently available or whose production runs have ended, this list will provide an up-to-date list of cartridge homebrew releases within sight to one degree or another. Part I of this list will include live pre-orders, either through the developer’s website or a crowdfunding page such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Part II of this list will only include homebrew games that previously had pre-orders open, but which are now closed (e.g. a crowdfunding campaign has ended and no further pre-orders are being taken). This section will serve as a sort of limbo for games that will be available soon and will therefore soon be moved to the Homebrew Almanac. Completed roms for games where the developer is planning or considering a physical cart run will also be found here. Part III of this list will be devoted to homebrew projects that developers have announced are in the works, but which are not yet available for pre-order, though demos may have been released to whet our appetites. The line between which projects have been abandoned and which retain a glimmer of hope is a fuzzy one, so developers please pm me if you wish to be added/removed. Part IV is dedicated to the memory of homebrew projects which, as far as I can tell, have been abandoned. This may be because the developer has gone dormant on this project or in general, or a developer had a page for this game that has since vanished. May they one day be resurrected. Links will be to a game’s individual page, development blog, VGS thread, Twitter account, or some combination thereof to provide the community with the best possible access to news. But if developers would like me to link elsewhere, please tell me. *The usual disclaimer, I am sure that there are mistakes and games that slipped my attention in what follows. Feel free to point them out or inform us all of a change in a game's status. If you are the creator of a game and you would like to have your work included at a set date/time, please feel free to send me a pm. Part I: Homebrew Available for Pre-Order NES/Famicom Available for Pre-Order: -8bit Music Power $55 CIB Link -8bit Music Power Final $55 CIB Link -The Adventures of Panzer CAD$80 CIB Link -Anguna: Scourge of the Goblin King $60 CIB Link -The Assembly Line Game Jam 2021 $40 C Link -Blazing Rangers €55 CIB Link -Choumiryou-Party (FC) ¥9000 CIB Link -Dungeons & Doomknights $48 CIB Link -Full Quiet $60 CIB Link -Ghoul Grind: Night of the Necromancer $55 CIB Link -Kira Kira Star Night DX $55 CIB Link -KUBO 1 & 2 CIB Link -The Magnilo Case $50 CIB Link -Ooze Redux $50 CIB Link -Orange Island £100 CIB Link -Pico Pico (Basse Def Adventures) (FC) Link -Reknum: Fantasy of Dreams C Link -Soko Banana $60 CIB Link -Super Bat Puncher Demo (FC) €45 CIB Link -Tapeworm Disco Puzzle £50 CIB Link -Temple Dilemma $60 CIB Link -Zdey the Game €50 CIB Link SNES Available for Pre-Order: -Chip's Challenge $50 CIB Link -Eyra - The Crow Maiden $50 CIB Link Game Boy Available for Pre-Order: -Digital Retro Park (chiptune) €40 CIB Link -Doc Cosmos £40 CIB Link -The First Project €25 C Link -Flashin' $20 CIB Link -Genesis $45 CIB Link -IndestructoTank! £45 CIB Link -Living Electronics (chiptune) €30 C Link -Museum on a Cart €57+ CIB Link -Pine Creek $60 CIB Link -Planet Hop £50 CIB Link -POWA! €50 CIB Link -The Shapeshift €35 CIB Link Game Boy Advance Available for Pre-Order: Sega Master System Available for Pre-Order: Genesis/Mega Drive Available for Pre-Order: -A(...)M(...)96 $169 CIB Link -Bone Marrow $60 CIB Link -Chip's Challenge $50 CIB Link -Demons of Asteborg €60 CIB Link -Eyra - The Crow Maiden $50 CIB Link -Fight for Vengeance $50 CIB Link -Irena Genesis Metal Fury €45 CIB Link -Reknum: Fantasy of Dreams €60 CIB Link Turbografx-16 Available for Pre-Order: -Electronic Lifestyle (chiptune by Remute) €35 C Link Part II: Pre-Orders Closed or Completed But Not Yet Released on Cart NES/Famicom Pre-Order Closed or Will be Available Soon: -Action 53, Volume 4: Actually 54 Link -Dead Tomb Link -F-O (FC) Link -Gamer Quest (fka Nintendo Quest) Link -Mystic Searches Link -Nix: The Paradox Relic Link -Nova the Squirrel Link -Saturn Smash Link -Utakata Synopsis (FC) Link -What Remains Link SNES Pre-Order Closed or Will be Available Soon: Game Boy Pre-Order Closed or Will be Available Soon: -Black Castle Link Game Boy Advance Pre-Order Closed or Will be Available Soon: Sega Master System Pre-Order Closed or Will be Available Soon: Genesis/Mega Drive Pre-Order Closed or Will be Available Soon: -Jessie Jaeger in Cleopatra's Curse Link -Paprium $169 CIB Link -Phantom Gear $50 CIB Link Part III: Homebrew In-Development NES/Famicom In-Development: -Adventures in Cavyverse Link -Alien Isolation Link -Alwa's Awakening Link -Bat Lizard Bonanza -Cityzen Link -Cobol's Laboratory Link -Courier -Depths Link & Link -Dimension Shift Link & Link -Diversion Link -The Excitables Link -Fie (chiptune by Zi) Link -Force Bot Link -Former Dawn Link -Gulpy Link -Gypsum and the Travelers Link -Halcyon Link & Link -Hamburgers En Route to Switzerland Link -The Inversion Project Link -Jester Link -Janus Link -The Last Tower Link -Level Zero (chiptune by Zi) Link -Light from Within Link -The Meating Link -Moon Fest (FC) -Nessy!! The NES Robot Link -"Project Borscht" (a Frankengraphics tale) Link -Retro Artists of the Future, Vol 1. (chiptune compilation) -Retro Space Championship Link -Rumblefest '89 Link -Sam’s Journey Link -Saru★Kani Panic Link -Save the Leopard Cats! (FC) -Shera and the 40 Thieves Link -Slow Mole Link -Space Soviets Link -Super Hiking League Link -Super Tilt Bros. Link -Swords & Runes 2 -Sydney Hunter and the Caverns of Death Link -The Tenth Knight Link -Touhou Rououmu (FC) Link -Turtle Paint Link -Unicorn -UNO -Vice: Magic City Mayhem Link -The White Room Link -Witch N' Wiz Link -Yeah Yeah Beebiss II -(untitled Chinese New Year game) (ITG-Soft) (FC) -(untitled RPG) (in association with Amaweks) Link SNES In-Development: -Biz-Billes Link -Danmaku Link -Justice Beaver – The Great Timber Tantrum Link -Nova the Squirrel 2 Link -Super Paw-n Game Boy In-Development: -4000AD (chiptune by PROTODOME) Link -Coria and the Sunken City Link -Gelatinous: Humanity Lost Link -Green Cube Link -Infinity Link -Pet the Dog Link -Postal Pete Link -The Third Shift Link -(untitled Tronimal chiptune) Link Game Boy Advance In-Development: -Goodboy Galaxy Link Sega Master System In-Development: Genesis/Mega Drive In-Development: -Affinity:Sorrow Link -The Alexandra Project Link & Link -Alice Sisters Link -Apeel’s Court Link & Link -Arapuca Link -Aratu Brothers + Shaolin Carcará Link -ASAP PLZ Link -Bio Evil Link -Bite the Bullet: First Course Link -Crypt of Dracula Link -The Cursed Knight Link -Dreams Link -Ellenica: Dusk of the Gods Link -HorgiHugh Link -Insane Pain Link -Journey to Oblivion Link -Lethal Wedding Link -Mega Box Reloaded -Mega Darkula Link -Perlin & Pinpin Link -Shrine Maiden Shizuka Link -Space Madness Link -Thunder Paw Link -Verge World: Icarus Rising Link -YM2020 (chiptune) Link -ZPF Link Part IV: Homebrew Purgatorio NES/Famicom In-Development: -Almost Hero 2 Link -Balls and Booty Link -The Banketh Link -Bleu Bleu Link -Copper Jacket Link -Cotton & Candy Link -Deal or No Deal -Epicade -Family Vacation -Gatsby -The Gift of Discernment (aka Isometric Horror Game) Link & Link -High Noon Knockout -In Cod We Trust -Isolation Link -Isshokuta Link -Knil Link -Malasombra Link -NOFX Cover Cart Link -Project P Link -Rival Swarms -Roniu's Tale Link -Saturday Man Link -Space Beats -Super Smash Bros. NES Link -The Sword of Ianna Link -Transamnia Link -The Wizard: Story Unknown Link -You Only Live Thrice -(untitled game by iamerror) Link -(untitled game by Punch) Link SNES In-Development: -Dorven Digger Link Game Boy In-Development: -Frog Knight Link -Last Crown Warriors Link Game Boy Advance In-Development: Sega Master System In-Development: -DARC Link -Dead Gunner Link -Lain vs. the Castle of Evil Link -Lost Raider Link Genesis/Mega Drive In-Development: -Chant Link -The Chaos Citadel Link -Field of Nightmares -Kung Fu UFO Link -Magot Link -Moonrider Link -The Shifting Catacombs Link -The Viking and the Ninja Link & Link -Wanted Link -We Got Dungeons Link Part V: Malebolge
  2. Wondering if anyone made any levels for The Incident with the standalone level creator. If you do, drop them here for all to enjoy. Here is a link to the level creator: http://wix.to/0cBpCnI Not familiar with The Incident? It was a 2015 box pushing puzzler by @KHAN Games. The game has 120 levels and a standalone level creator was released later. More information on The Incident Here: https://www.videogamesage.com/databases/homebrew-video-games/nintendo/nes/the-incident-r3/
  3. 2021 Sale Thread -E-mail jasonrippard@yahoo.com for questions -Buyer pays shipping (unless otherwise stated) -Ships to North America Only -Prices made based on condition -Parting out items considered but not guaranteed. -PM for questions/details/bundling -If there is a bold line through it... it is sold. -All NES games have dust covers. If it has a box, it has a box protector. -Virginia has joined a list of other states raising the limit to $600 per year til a 1099 tax form is sent. Sorry for the inconvenience. Alternative payment forms are fine if this is an issue. -OVER 150 TRANSACTIONS ON NintendoAge (BUY WITH CONFIDENCE) Title C I B 720 1 0 0 $8 10-Yard Fight 1 0 0 $5 3-D Battles of World Runner (Black Box) 1 0 0 $15 8 Eyes 1 0 0 $12 Adventure Island 1 1 0 $20 Adventures of Dino Riki (I) 0 1 0 $5 After Burner 1 0 0 $7 Air Fortress 1 1 0 $15 Airwolf 1 1 1 $20 Alpha Mission 1 0 0 $12 Arch Rivals 1 0 1 $25 Archon (Box) 0 0 1 $15 Athletic World (regular version) 1 1 0 $30 Bandai Golf: Challenge Pebble Beach 1 1 1 $15 Barker Bill's Trick Shooting 1 1 1 $25 Base Wars - Cyber Stadium Series 1 1 0 $10 Baseball Stars 2 (Box) 0 0 1 $25 Bases Loaded 1 1 1 $10 Bases Loaded 2: Second Season 1 1 0 $7 Bases Loaded 3, Ryne Sandberg Plays 1 1 0 $12 Battle Chess 1 0 0 $7 Black Bass, The 1 1 1 $20 Blades of Steel 1 0 0 $8 Blaster Master 1 1 0 $20 Bo Jackson Baseball (IB) 0 1 1 $15 Boulder Dash 1 1 0 $15 Breakthru 1 0 0 $8 Bubble Bobble 1 0 0 $15 Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout 1 0 0 $8 Bump 'n' Jump 1 0 0 $8 Burai Fighter 0 0 1 $10 Caesar's Palace (box) 0 0 1 $10 Casino Kid 1 0 0 $8 Castle of Dragon (box) 0 0 1 $20 Caveman Games (manual) 0 1 0 $8 Championship Bowling 1 1 0 $8 Cobra Command 1 0 0 $20 Cobra Triangle 1 0 0 $10 Code Name: Viper 1 0 0 $12 Crystal Mines (blue cart) 1 0 1 $70 Crystalis 1 0 0 $18 Dance Aerobics 1 0 0 $8 Dash Galaxy in the Alien Asylum 1 0 1 $25 Demon Sword 1 0 0 $10 Destination Earthstar 1 0 1 $20 Dick Tracy 1 0 0 $10 Dig Dug II 1 1 0 $15 Donkey Kong Classics 1 0 0 $15 Double Dare 1 0 0 $15 Dragon Power 1 0 0 $10 Duck Hunt 1 1 1 $40 Dungeon Magic 1 1 0 $20 Excitebike (missing tab) 1 0 1 $30 Fantasy Zone 1 0 0 $30 Faxanadu 1 1 0 $25 Fester's Quest 1 1 0 $15 Final Fantasy 1 0 0 $20 Gauntlet 1 1 1 $25 Gauntlet 1 0 0 $7 Gauntlet II 1 1 1 $27 Ghosts 'n Goblins 1 0 0 $20 Golf (3 screw) 1 0 0 $5 Golgo 13 1 1 1 $25 Goonies II, The 1 1 0 $25 Gotcha! The Sport! 1 1 0 $10 Gumshoe (unpunched tab) 1 1 1 $?? Gun.Smoke 1 0 0 $22 Gyromite (w/ famicom converter) 1 1 0 $25 Hogan's Alley 1 1 1 $?? Hoops 1 1 0 $8 Hunt for Red October, The 1 0 0 $8 Hydlide 1 0 0 $8 Ice Hockey 1 1 0 $10 Ikari Warriors 1 0 0 $12 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom 1 0 0 $15 Infiltrator 1 0 0 $8 Jeopardy! 1 0 1 $12 Jeopardy! 25th Anniversary Edition 1 0 0 $5 John Elway's Quarterback 1 1 0 $8 Karate Champ 1 1 0 $10 King's Knight 1 1 0 $20 Kings of the Beach 1 0 0 $8 Kirby's Adventure 1 1 0 $38 Kung Fu Heroes 1 0 0 $10 Mad Max 1 0 0 $15 Magic of Scheherazade 1 0 0 $15 Millipede 1 0 0 $10 Milon's Secret Castle 1 1 0 $15 Mission: Impossible 1 1 1 $17 Ms. Pac-Man (Tengen) 1 1 0 $25 Muppet Adventure: Chaos at the Carnival (stains) 1 0 0 $12 Open Tournament Golf, NES 1 0 1 $17 ORB 3-D 1 1 0 $10 Othello 1 0 0 $5 Pin-Bot 1 1 0 $8 Pinball 1 1 0 $5 Play Action Football, NES 1 1 1 $10 Predator 1 1 0 $50 Punch-Out!! 1 0 0 $12 Q*Bert 1 1 0 $12 R.B.I. Baseball 1 0 0 $10 Rainbow Islands (box) 0 0 1 $40 Remote Control 1 1 0 $12 Rescue Embassy Mission 1 0 0 $12 Ring King 1 0 0 $7 Road Runner 1 0 0 $10 RoboWarrior 1 0 0 $10 Rush'n Attack 1 0 0 $10 Sesame Street HideSpeak 1 0 0 $8 Shinobi 1 0 0 $10 Shooting Range (IB) 0 1 1 $15 Short Order/Eggsplode 1 0 0 $10 Side Pocket 1 0 0 $8 Silent Service 1 1 0 $8 Ski or Die 1 0 0 $10 Sky Shark 1 1 0 $10 Slalom 1 0 0 $7 Smash T.V. 1 0 0 $15 Soccer 1 0 0 $8 Solar Jetman - Hunt for the Golden Warpship 1 0 0 $10 Solstice - The Quest for the Staff of Demnos 1 0 0 $10 Spy vs. Spy 1 0 0 $10 Star Voyager 1 0 0 $5 Stealth ATF 1 0 0 $8 Stinger 1 1 0 $25 Super Dodge Ball 1 1 0 $30 Super Jeopardy!, Talking (Box) 0 0 1 $10 SMB/Duck Hunt/WCTM (w/ custom box) 1 0 1 $25 Super Pitfall 1 1 0 $15 Super Spike V'Ball 1 0 1 $17 Super Spike V'Ball/WC Soccer (w/custom box) 1 0 1 $20 Super Team Games 1 0 0 $8 Tecmo Bowl 1 0 0 $10 Tecmo World Wrestling 1 1 0 $15 Tetris 2 1 1 0 $12 Tiger-Heli 1 1 0 $10 To The Earth 1 1 1 $22 Tombs & Treasure (box) 0 0 1 $40 Top Gun - The Second Mission 1 1 0 $8 Top Players' Tennis Evert & Lendl 1 0 0 $10 Total Recall 1 1 0 $30 Track & Field 1 0 0 $5 Track & Field II 1 1 0 $9 Twin Cobra 1 0 0 $10 Vegas Dream 1 1 1 $20 Vindicators 1 0 1 $20 WCW: World Championship Wrestling 1 0 0 $12 Wheel of Fortune 1 1 0 $7 Wheel of Fortune: Family Edition 1 0 0 $5 Win, Lose or Draw 1 1 0 $6 Winter Games 1 0 0 $8 World Class Track Meet (w/ custom box) 1 0 1 $15 World Games 1 0 0 $8 Wrath of the Black Manta 1 0 0 $8 - Retron 3 CIB - Retron 5 console CIB (w/ official tote bag) ******NEW & SEALED - AND - UNPLAYED******* NES Aftermarket / Homebrew / Reproductions CIB (ENTERTAINING OFFERS!!) -Chuck Yeagers Figher Combat (w/ flight pin) $100 -Fighing Simulator (Good Guy Cover) $90 -Blow 'Em Out $55 -Swords and Runes $85 -Happily Ever After $90 -War on Wheels $80 -Hotman $75 -Flappy $75 -Shoot Ufo $80 -Sky Destroyer $80 -Warp Man $75 -Superman: (Sealed) $80 -Targa (SNES Aftermarket / Reproduction) $80
  4. VGS Homebrew Almanac formerly known as The Currently Available Homebrew Thread: The purpose of this thread is to keep an up-to-date list of cartridge homebrew releases that are currently in production for the NES, SNES, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Sega Master System, and Genesis. This list is for those who need their homebrew right now (well, now plus shipping time and something for the tax man). For those looking for NES homebrew roms, NESworld is the place to go. For those curious what is included in each entry of the Action 53 series, NESdev has a wiki for you. Part I of this list will only include currently available physical releases (available that is, from the original producer (I can't watch every eBay auction). Hacks, repros, and re-releases will not be included (but this might be a good place to also flag pirated work so we can call out theft where it happens). This list will include games as well as chiptune carts. Variants can be included where there is a substantive difference in gameplay; limited editions, variants of the physical cart itself, or minor in-game differences will not be distinguished. Part II of this list will include defunct homebrew games that are no longer available from their original source but can be found on the secondary market. This section is intended to serve as a reference for collectors new and old who wish to enrich their collections as well as their lives with what was once brewed but alas is brewed no more (at least until Ferris re-posts his fairly exhaustive Aftermarket Price Guide here or on a dedicate site). For simplicity’s sake, links will be to a game’s individual page/thread (or as close as possible). *Please note, I am sure that there are mistakes and games that slipped my attention in what follows. Feel free to point them out or inform us all of a change in a game's status. If you are the creator of a game and you would like to have your work included at a set date/time, please feel free to send me a pm. Part I: The Currently Available Homebrew List Currently Available NES/Famicom Releases: -0-to-X NA Edition $75 CIB Link -2 in 1 Geminim/Siamond $27 C Link -8Bit Rhythm Land $45 CIB Link -8-bit XMAS 2017 $75 C Link -8-bit XMAS 2019 $46 C Link -8-bit XMAS 2020 $48 C Link -Action 53, Volume 2: Double Action 53 $48 CIB Link -Action 53 Volume 3: Revenge of the Twins $50 CIB Link -Alfonzo's Arctic Adventure $40 CIB Link -Almost Hero $50 CIB Link -Alter Ego €25 CIB Link -AO $35 CIB Link -Armed for Battle $52 CIB Link -Assimilate $35 C Link -Basse Def Adventures €31 CIB Link -Battle Kid Dangerous Trap $20 CIB Link -Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril $36 C Link -Battle Kid 2: Mountain of Torment $49 CIB Link -Beat ‘Em $30 C Link -Beerslinger $35 CIB Link -Billionaire Banshee $50 CIB Link -Black Box Challenge $40 C Link -Bovinium Quest $30 CIB Link -Candelabra: Estoscerro $60 CIB Link -Carpet Shark $50 CIB Link -Chumlee's Adventure: The Quest for Pinky $67.50 CIB Link -Chunkout 2 $25 C Link -City Trouble $35 CIB Link -Creepy Brawlers $50 CIB Link -Doodle World $55 CIB Link -Draiocht $40 CIB Link -Dushlan $40 CIB Link -Eskimo Bob $30 C Link -Exit Loop $30 CIB Link -Expedition $75 CIB + Cards Link -Eyra-The Crow Maiden $50 CIB Link -Family Picross $40 CIB Link -Flea! £50 CIB Link -Galactic Ascension $45 CIB Link -Get'em Gary! $40 CIB Link -Gold Guardian Gun Girl (NES) $60 CIB Link -Gotta Protectors: Amazon’s Running Diet $40 C Link -Haradius Zero (FC) ¥10,000 CIB Link -Haratyler (FC) ¥6,000 CIB Link -Haunted: Halloween '85 $60 CIB Link (NES) & $45 C Link (FC) -Haunted: Halloween '86 $60 CIB Link (NES) & $45 C Link (FC) -HBWC 2012 $45 C Link -The Incident: Remastered $60 CIB Link -Jet Paco €25 CIB Link -Jim Power $55 CIB Link -Justice Duel $45 CIB Link -Kirakira Star Night DX (FC) $53 CIB Link -KUBO 3 $30 C PM dale_coop -Little Medusa $60 CIB Link -Lizard (NES) $60 CIB Link; $55 CIB Link; & €45 CIB Link; (FC) €45 CIB Link -Log Jammers $50 CIB Link -Lucky Penguin $50 CIB Link -Machine Cave $40 CIB Link -Meteor Swarm $35 C Link -Micro Mages €45 CIB Link; (FC) €45 CIB Link -Mojonian Tales $48 CIB Link -More Glider $35 C Link -Multidude $40 CIB Link -Mystic Origins $50 CIB Link -Mystic Pillars $36 C Link -Nebs 'n Debs $48 CIB Link; (FC) €45 CIB Link -Neo Heiankyo Alien (FC) $45 CIB Link -NES Virus Cleaner $35 CIB Link -Nighttime Bastards $47 CIB Link -Ninja I & II $49 CIB Link -Oof McBrewster $45 CIB Link -Pegs $30 C Link -Piss the Fish (FC) $60 CIB PM fcgamer -Ploid €40 CIB Link -Porun-chan no Onigiri Daisuki ¥7,963 CIB Link -Power Coloring $35 C Link -Project Blue $60 CIB Link & 50 €CIB Link -Quadralords $35 C Link -Quest Forge - By Order of Kings $40 Link -Rainbow Brite: Journey to the Rainbow Land €39,90 CIB Link -Rollie $60 CIB Link -Sgt. Helmet Training Day €50 CIB Link -Sir Abadol €30 CIB Link -Snakky $20 CIB Link -Solaris $35 C Link -Space Raft $60 CIB Link -Spirit Impel $70 CIB Link -Spook-o'-tron $48 CIB Link -Study Hall $33 C Link -Super NeSnake 2 $34 C Link -Super Painter $40 CIB Link -Super Uwol €25 CIB Link -Swords and Runes RE $45 CIB Link -Swords and Runes III LE $250 CIB Link -Swords and Runes III NA $75 CIB Link -Troll Burner $20 C Link -Trophy $60 CIB Link -Twelve Seconds $35 C Link -Twin Dragons €45 CIB Link; (FC) €45 CIB Link -Uchūsen €30 CIB Link -UXO RE $35 CIB PM Neodolphino -Wampus C PM johnvanderhoe & Link -Wart Worm Wingding C PM johnvanderhoe & Link Currently Available NES/Famicom Music Carts: -8Bit Music Power Final $33 CIB Link -A Hole New World Soundtrack (chiptune) $45 CIB Link (NES) & €40 CIB Link (FC) -bitpuritans: 2A03 Puritans RE $50 C Link -Creeping it Real $40 CIB Link -Famicompo Pico 2014 $50 C Link -Famimimidi $200 C Link -Mega Ran: RNDM $50 CIB Link -Sergio Elisondo: A Winner Is You $35 C Link -Zi: Quiet $35 C Link -Zi: Silicon Statue $35 C Link -Zi: Thornbury $35 C Link -Zi: [Welcome to] Eville $35 C Link Currently Available SNES/Super Famicom Releases: -Fork Parker's Crunch Out $50 CIB Link -The Last Super $30 C Link -Little Medusa $60 CIB Link -Nekotako $72 CIB Link -Old Towers $50 CIB Link -Quiz Impact Habit's Great Adventure (SFC) ¥10,780 CIB Link -Super Sudoku $40 C Link -Sydney Hunter & the Caverns of Death $40 CIB Link -Yo Yo Shuriken $50 CIB Link Currently Available SNES/Super Famicom Music Carts: -The Cult of Remute €36 C Link Currently Available Game Boy/Game Boy Color Releases: -Airaki $15 C Link -Another Dracula's Castle ¥4,730 CIB Link -Bingo Machine ¥3,480 C Link -Bonesy $15.27 C Link -Cubic Style GB Flash Cartridge with Illustration ¥1,000 C Link -Dangan $25 C Link -Death Planet $15 C Link -Die and Retry $15 C Link -Dimeo's Jukebox $69.69 CAD CIB Link -Dino's Offline Adventure $15 C Link -DMG Deals Damage $15 C Link -Dracula’s Castle ¥4,400 CIB Link -Dragonborne £40 CIB Link -Escape 2042 $30 CIB Link -GB Dot Illustration (Quiz Impact Illustration Collection) (GB Color) ¥4,500 C Link -GB Dot Illustration (Technos Japan Kon) ¥4,200 C Link -GB Dot Illustration (Tomoe Yamane-Game Impact Collaboration) ¥4,000 C Link -Ghostly Labyrinth $25 CIB Link -Guns & Riders $15 C Link -Infinitron $20 CIB Link -Into the Blue $25 C Link -Leo Legend €25 C Link -Lunar Journey €25 C Link -Micro Doctor €25 C Link -Mona and the Witch's Hat Deluxe $25 C Link -Petris $15 C Link -Quartet $15 C Link -Quest Arrest $35 CIB Link -Quiz Impact Habit’s Great Adventure ¥5,550 CIB Link -Repair-chan's Repair Daisakusen ¥ 6,380 CIB Link -Retroid $20 CIB Link -The Retrospekt.com.au Retro Gaming Museum The Game AVCon 2019 $15.27 C Link -Saeko-sensei’s Sex Appeal Blackjack ¥5,280 CIB Link -Sheep it Up! $15 C Link -Submarine 9 €25 C Link -Tobu Tobu Girl Deluxe €49 CIB Link -Tower of Hanoi $15 C Link -Where is my body? €34 CIB Link Currently Available Game Boy Music Carts: -ASM 2016 Christmas Card $25 C Link -Heebie-GBs 2014 $40 C Link -Heebie-GBs 2019 $40 C Link Currently Available GBA Releases: -HomeBrew GamePack $40 C (?) Link -Miko Para ¥4,500 CIB Link -Motocross Challenge $40 C (?) Link -Powder $35 CIB Link -XE GamePack $50 C (?) Link Currently Available Sega Master System Releases: -Baru Baru €45 CIB Link -Flight of Pigarus €50 CIB Link -Heroes Against Demons €45 CIB Link -Prisonnier 2 €45 CIB Link -Voyage-A Sorceress' Vacation €45 CIB Link Currently Available Genesis/Mega Drive Releases: -16Bit Rhythm Land $60 CIB Link -Alien Cat 2 $50 CIB Link -Arkagis Revolution $50 CIB Link (Mega Cat) & €45 CIB Link (Broke Studio) -Balaio de Jogos (4-in-1) 99.90 R$ CB Link -Cannon Fire Chaos $50 CIB Link -Coffee Crisis $50 CIB Link -The Curse of Illmoore Bay $60 CIB Link -Debtor $60 CIB Link -Devwill Too $50 CIB Link -Escape 2042 $40 CIB Link -Foxy Land $60 CIB Link -Gluf $50 CIB Link -Handy Harvy $35 CIB Link -Kromasphere YAGAC MD $35 CIB Link -L'Abbaye des Morts $45 CIB Link -Little Medusa $55 CIB Link -Mega Casanova $29 CIB Link -Mega Marble World $35 CIB Link -Mega Marble World 2 $38 CIB Link -Mega Quadro Pong $44.75 CIB Link -MegaXmas ’89 $30 C Link -Metal Blast 2277 $32 CIB Link -Misplaced $50 CIB Link -Old Towers $50 CIB Link -Papi Commando: Second Blood €45 CIB Link -Racer $29 CIB Link -Romeow & Julicat $50 CIB Link -Smiley & Smiley $29 CIB Link -Space Flies Attack $38 CIB Link -Super Heavy Duty $35 CIB Link -Tanzer $50 CIB Link -Tanglewood $50 CIB Link -Xeno Crisis £55 CIB Link -Xump 2 €24.37 CIB Link & Link -Yazzie $50 CIB Link Currently Available Genesis/Mega Drive Music Carts: -genMDM $80 C Link -Mikeyeldey: the album C$18 CIB Link -Remute: Technoptimistic €33 Link Currently Available Game Gear Releases: -Hamburgers En Route to Switzerland $39 C Link Currently Available TurboGrafx 16 Releases (HuCARD only): -Atlantean $68 CIB Link Part II: Defunct Homebrew or Sorry But Your Homebrew is in Another Castle No Longer Available NES/Famicom Releases: -1007 Bolts/Hammers/Gifts -8-bit XMAS 2008 -8-bit XMAS 2009 -8-bit XMAS 2010 -8-bit XMAS 2011 -8-bit XMAS 2012 -8-bit XMAS 2013 -8-bit XMAS 2014 -8-bit XMAS 2015 -8-bit XMAS 2016 -8-bit XMAS 2018 -Action 53, Volume 1: Function 16 Volume One "Streemerz Bundle" -Astro Ninja Man (FC) -Basic Championship Wrestling -Blade Buster -Blow ‘Em Out -Bomb Sweeper -Box Boy -Brilliant Pebbles -Bust A Nut: Flight of the Harbinger -Candelabra: Estoscerro -Commie Killer -Commie Killer featuring Jeffrey Wittenhagen -Console Killer -Convention Quest -Cornball Cocksuckers -Cowlitz Gamers Adventure -Cowlitz Gamers Second Adventure -Cross-Strait Independence -CTWC 2018: The Archives -D+Pad Hero -D+Pad Hero 2 -Dragon Boat (FC) -Dragon Feet -Dragon Leap -E.T. -Enigmacore -Final Fantasy VII -Flappy Bird -Frankengraphics Concept Cart -Freecell LE -From Below -Galf -Garage Cart -Gemventure -Germ Squashers -Glider -Gold Guardian Gun Girl (FC) -The Grind -Gruniożerca 2 -Gruniożerca 3 -HACK*MATCH -Halloween Scare Cart 2015 -Halloween Scare Cart 2016 -Halloween Scare Cart 2017 -Halloween Scare Cart 2018 -Hangman -Haradius Zero (NES) -Hungry Ghost Night (Gasse version) (FC) -Hungry Ghost Night (Wang version) (FC) -Ilevan (FC) -The Incident -Jay & Silent Bob: Mall Brawl -Juhannusolumppialaiset 2017 -Juhannussauna 2016 -Kevin Power in Concert Carnage -Kevin Power in Too Many Games -KHAN Games 4-in-1 Retro Gamepak -Kira Kira Star Night DX -K.Y.F.F. -LAN Master -Larry and the Long Look for a Luscious Lover -Larry and the Long Look for a Luscious Lover: Engagement Edition -Lawn Mower -Legends of Owlia -Mad Wizard -Midwest Gaming Classic 2011 -Miles Con 2016 -Mr. Splash -NA Halloween 2009 -NAGE Hunt -Neotoxin -NEScape -Ninja Slapper -Nomolos: Storming the Catsle -NyanCat -Peace Love Trippy Club (FC) -Perfect Pair -Perkele -Poronkusema -Random Insult Generator -RC 2 Rally (FC) Link -Rekt -Retro Homebrew Championships 2015 -RetroVision -Rick Roll'd -Rise of Amondus -Rock, Paper, Scissors -RSM Cart 2011 -RSM Cart 2012 -Scramble -Sitten Kitten -Slappin' Bitches -Sly Dog Studios 3-in-1 2P Pak -Sneak ‘n Peek -Space Foxes -Star Keeper -Star Versus -Sudoku 2007 -Super Bat Puncher Demo (NES) -Super Russian Roulette -T*Gun -Tailgate Party -Tic Tac XO -Tortoises -Tower Defense 1990 -The Tower of Turmoil -Turtle Rescue: Unhatched DX -Turtle Rescue: Unwrapped -Ultimate Frogger Champion -Vegetablets Go (NES & FC) -VGBS Gaming Podcast Season 1 -Zooming Secretary No Longer Available NES/Famicom Music Carts: -_node: d3ad_form4t -8Bit Music Power -Alex Mauer: Color Caves -Alex Mauer: Vegavox -Alex Mauer: Vegavox II -Alwa's Awakening Soundtrack -Anamanaguchi: Dawn Metropolis -Anamanaguchi: Endless Fantasy -Anamanaguchi: Power Supply -animal style: Teletime -BEATBOX -Chip Maestro (for making music!) -Holly Jolly NES Mix -Goofy Foot: Power Chiptunes -Journey -King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard: Polygondwanaland -King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard: Polygondwanaland 2nd Release -Kreese: PAL Project -Midlines -MOON8 -Moonfall: A Legend of Zelda Compilation -NESK-1 -NTRQ -Puzzle Boys: Duck Tails -RTC: Years Behind -Super Synth Drums Cart -Zao: Reformat/Reboot -Zi: Four No Longer Available SNES/Super Famicom Releases: -16-bit XMAS 2011 -16-bit XMAS 2012 -Frog Feast -Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman Zero No Longer Available Game Boy Releases: -Chunkout -Deadeus -Rope & Bombs -Super Connard -Super Jetpack DX -The Warp Coin Catastrophe -Windows 93 Adventure No Longer Available Game Boy Music Carts: -The Mist Toggles: Boneless -Nonfinite: Plus/Minus -Tronimal: Hello_World! No Longer Available GBA Releases: -Anguna: Warriors of Virtue No Longer Available GBA Music Carts: -Be Careful: Liminal Cove -Doctor Popular: Destroy All Presets -Don Aaron: FREEDOM? -mingkurray: holographic -OasisLtd.: Mixtape #1 -Startide Realms: ASVMR -TUPPERWAVE: To you baby, with love No Longer Available Sega Master System Releases: -Sydney Hunter & The Sacred Tribe No Longer Available Genesis/Mega Drive Releases: -16Bit Rhythm Land -30 Years of Nintendon't -ASCII Wars -Barbarian -Beach Volley -Bomb on Basic City -Code Eliminator -Double Symbol -FX Unit Yuki -Game Panic II -Germ Squashers -Griel’s Quest -Hangman SG -Humiliation Nation -Invasion -IK+ Deluxe -Ivanhoe -Megagames Almanac -Mega Cheril Perils -Miniplanets -Papi Commando -Pier Solar and the Great Architects -Return to Genesis -Sacred Line -Star J -Suprakillminds -T*Gun II -Uwol Quest for Money -War in the Machine -Zooming Secretary No Longer Available Genesis/Mega Drive Music Carts: -Eternalist: A Telefuture Compilation -Freezedream: Today -Hyperdub: Konsolation (bundled with Analogue Mega Sg) -Tanglewood Soundtrack -TH4 D34D: Future 2612 -Ym2017
  5. I am surprised to see a copy of this go for that much. From what I recall, it had a custom mapper so it couldn't be dumped. Or the ROM isn't out there online to play. This game is definitely one of the better homebrew games for the NES developed. I think about 100 copies were made by 87Arts. The early copies were Limited Edition and you could opt for custom text. They also had a unique number coded on the title screen. https://www.ebay.com/itm/Star-keeper-nes-homebrew-game-nintendo-CIB-Complete-rare-tested-/254327462715?hash=item3b37191b3b%3Ag%3AL1EAAOSwC4FdUAdr&nma=true&si=ig6XI4XlG4Lr6Jb3x%2Fzi3vRSLOc%3D&orig_cvip=true&nordt=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557
  6. Hey everyone, I've launched my blog series A Homebrew Draws Near! It covers new homebrew games coming into existence, discussing their development, gameplay, and most importantly share fun stories from the development team! In addition to its place in the blog section of VGS, this thread will share links to each entry as it’s made and provide announcements for newer posts. I hope you enjoy it! Episode 1: Project Blue Episode 2: KUBO 3 Episode 3: Anguna Zero Episode 4: Trophy Episode 5: Rollie Episode 6: Jay & Silent Bob: Mall Brawl Episode 7: Quest Arrest Episode 8: The Assembly Line Episode 9: 8-Bit Xmas 2020 Episode 10: Space Raft Episode 11: From Below Episode 12: Yeah Yeah Beebiss II Episode 13: What Remains Episode 14: Doodle World Episode 15: The Curse of Illmoore Bay
  7. A Homebrew Draws Near! A blog series by @Scrobins Episode 15: The Curse of Illmoore Bay Introduction: The growth of the homebrew community and availability of homebrew game carts is largely thanks to the savvy of a handful of people who have made the herculean effort of establishing supply chains to manufacture and publish cartridges for other brewers in addition to their own games. Among these titans of industry are RetroUSB, InfiniteNESLives, Broke Studio, the 6502 Collective, and Second Dimension, which has developed and published homebrew games across multiple consoles since the community’s infancy. For this entry, I’m breaking another console barrier to cover Second Dimension’s latest games over the course of two episodes. With this post I’m covering The Curse of Illmoore Bay, an action platformer for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. As of the time of this writing, initial Kickstarter backers have had their pledges fulfilled and the physical and rom releases can be purchased here, as well as downloaded on Steam here. CIB, the total package Development Team: Adam Welch: project lead, programming, story Jav Leal de Freitas: graphics, story, regular edition cover art Sebastian “Tacha” Abreu: music Armen Mardirossian: limited edition cover art Game Evolution: The Curse of Illmoore Bay was first promoted under the working title “Project: Halloweenville” when development threads for the game were created on Sega-16 on January 20, 2019 and on NintendoAge on January 23, 2019. Adam would post teasers including gameplay and highlighted features to entice gamers. Screenshot from Project: Halloweenville A Kickstarter campaign for The Curse of Illmoore Bay launched a few months later on May 17, 2019. Backer tiers included a digital version of the game; the game’s rom; a cart-only option; a standard edition CIB; a limited edition CIB with a cloth map, stickers, and character inserts; a developer edition with the limited edition CIB, a late beta PCB, and beta tester/Discord access; and options to become a level boss or a third playable character in the game. Within 24 hours the campaign had reached its initial funding goal, and by the end of the campaign 237 backers pledged more than $17,000 toward the game. The total blew through several stretch goals, unlocking access to a digital version of the game, a boss rush mode, and a 2-player alternating mode. Gameplay Overview: The Curse of Illmoore Bay describes itself as a horizontal scrolling action platformer. You have your choice to play as Cole, Scarlett, or Issa: Illmoore’s legendary (but also forgotten) protectors, resurrected to defend the town from nightmares come alive, all thanks to a disgruntled mall Santa. ♬ I won’t ask for much this Christmas, I won’t even wish for snow, if Santa would just take these demons back down to the hell below ♬ Each character can jump, perform a melee attack (punch for Cole, kick for Scarlett and Issa), and use a special attack when selected, depending on your progress in the game. Basic controls are intuitive for anyone who has ever played a Genesis game: left/right on the d-pad moves you back and forth, down allows you to duck, up enters doorways, the A button unleashes your special attack/ability, the B button allows you to jump, and the C button is your normal melee attack. Where Illmoore shines is the added complexity to gameplay revealed through its unlockable content. Like any solid platformer, Illmoore includes collectible items that can replenish your health and energy (for special attacks) as well as increase your max health. Among these collectibles are unlockable abilities that broaden gameplay. If you press Start at the beginning of the game, you will notice the Ability Wheel, and the Shot ability which is already unlocked. Medallions hidden throughout the game unlock more abilities (that I won’t spoil) which will allow you to go back to previous levels and reach every item and enemy you couldn't get to before. And just to be clear, getting that 100% game completion status isn’t a mere bragging right with the "satisfaction of doing a good job" kind of accomplishment: there are 18 awards to be won by players diligent enough to explore the entire game. Writer’s Review: Despite the cartoony 16-bit platforming reminiscent of the silly but simple games of our youth, The Curse of Illmoore Bay is deceptively challenging. Second Dimension put forth a game that takes everything you liked about such games as a kid, but knowing you’re an adult now, upping the ante accordingly. As mentioned earlier, the unlockable abilities open access to areas of levels that were just out of reach before, which means many levels will make you questions your sanity because you aren’t able to jump up to a platform where another item or level exit floats, yet. This is the game’s clever way or telling you that levels are meant to be played more than once and you should keep an eye out for anything that would justify a little backtracking. As someone who freely admits he is not the best gamer, this was a frustrating lesson to internalize. But the more I played, the more I understood how to actually play, and then instead of crying “why can’t I go up there?!?”, I would just think “ooh I wonder when I’ll find whatever enables me to come back and finish this stage.” Also thank goodness for this game saving my progress after each level. Screenshot from The Curse of Illmoore Bay Some of my excited frustration probably also comes from the energetic soundtrack, with its fast-paced chiptune; the beats make me feel like I’m doing the game a disservice if I slow down for even a second. This game makes me want to play cautiously, but the music seems to dare me, taunting me to be bolder, no matter how many game over's I may get. The music possesses that classic bunch of deep tones you can only find in Genesis games, with a 90s rock feel that reminded me of Comix Zone mixed with some of that ToeJam & Earl zaniness. Meanwhile the graphical art sets a colorful atmosphere full of fun animations between the active environment and the various enemies adorably waiting to kill you. It’s almost a shame you have to send those demons back to hell. Indeed, The Curse of Illmoore Bay would have fit comfortably among licensed-era Genesis titles; I know I would have woken up early on Saturday to play the hell out of it. Interviews: Because the development teams for The Curse of Illmoore Bay and Eyra-The Crow Maiden overlap significantly, I decided to interview Illmoore’s team about both games, saving the remaining members for part 2 of this series, which will focus more on Eyra. Adam Welch @alteredimension -Before we dive into The Curse of Illmoore Bay and Eyra-The Crow Maiden, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a homebrewer? What is the origin story of Second Dimension and its predecessor Airwalk Studios? Like most people, ever since I was a little kid, I have always wanted to make a video game. It would be until I was in my late 20’s when I would eventually take the plunge. I had bought my house the previous year with my then girlfriend, but we had split shortly after. That left me living largely out of my savings as I had not planned on paying the bills solely on my own. Winter was soon approaching, and New England winters can be brutal, which means it becomes costly to heat your home. I was basically choosing to either eat or pay the oil man. Thinking of what I could do to try and earn some money, all that was left was “new old school games seem to be in, so why not give that a go?” At the time, I believe Battle Kid was just released, and Pier Solar was on the horizon. I started looking at programming languages to make these games and was hoping to find a language that was familiar enough for me to learn easily. Assembly was foreign to me. I had very little experience with it in school (in fact, we used basically an open circuit board that had a PS/2 plug for a keyboard on it, and a small LCD display that could hold 1 line of text with a maximum of 20 characters or so, and only 2 registers), so that eliminated the NES right off the bat. I wanted to check out SNES programming, but documentation back then was scarce, difficult to understand (at least for me), and it was still largely assembly. That is when I stumbled upon BEX (Basiegaxorz, a BASIC compiler) and Stef’s SGDK C compiler, both for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. I used BASIC near daily at the time for work, and I was familiar enough with C to feel confident to learn SGDK, but I went for the option I was more familiar with. Learning the syntax and how to work the console, I was left to figure out what kind of game could I make? Well, that game ended up being Hangman SG. I cobbled together the game over the course of a weekend and presented it to the world… or the NintendoAge/SegaAge forums. The Nolan Bros, who coincidentally lived within an hour and a half drive, offered to do the first manufacturing run for me (for free!). They really helped save my skin so I could afford to heat my home that year. The name Airwalk Studios was named after my favorite shoes when I was a teenager, and somewhere in 2015 or 2016 it was changed to Second Dimension after throwing some ideas around with arch_8ngel (I’m pretty sure he’s the one that suggested it). The Airwalk Studios Logo -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? When it comes to making games, Miyamoto is the first one that pops in my head. The way he world-builds and pays attention to some of the most abstract details is just amazing, and it really shows in his work. For story writing, musical compositions, and world building (again), I’m going to cheap out on this answer and say all of the 80’s and 90’s Square Soft teams (and by extension, Enix’s Dragon Quest teams). RPG’s were my jam, and the way I would get immersed into the story and the world I was exploring when I was a kid was amazing. Inafune is also a pretty big influence. The Mega Man franchise on the NES was one of my favorites. The stories were pretty simplistic, but had that “cool!” factor to them – I mean, who doesn’t like the idea of being a robot and taking powers from other robots? But the main influence is how tightly these games were designed. The controls are spot on, the enemies, AI, bosses, power-ups, etc., all designed wonderfully. As for whose work I’m closely following these days – that’s a tough one. I haven’t followed anyone mainstream in quite some time (though I do occasionally check out Jack Black’s gaming vids), but mostly other developers who share the same interests and passions as Second Dimension - CollectorVision, White Ninja Studio, Bits Rule Games, and Mega Cat just to name a few. I also check out Kikuta’s music from time to time as well, to see what he’s been up to as his music is basically the soundtrack of my “coming of age” years. -You burst onto the homebrew scene with Hangman SG, and have since worked on an array of homebrew games, how would you describe your aesthetic? That’s a tough question – I generally don’t have anything in particular that I do, though I’ve started hiding (sometimes very obvious) some sort of connection to my real life into the games somehow. -Have you noticed any changes in your style or game development preferences over the years? Definitely. As our projects get more involved, and we learn more and gain more experience, we’re able to accomplish a lot more than we used to be able to. The evolution of tools (both in-house and tools other developers create and share) help play a big role in that, as well as the community of developers who are more than happy to help and share ideas and tips. -Another fascinating aspect of Second Dimension is that you are involved with homebrew games across multiple consoles. What has led you to transcend consoles when many other brewers prefer to stick to one console? I view gaming in the same way as I view music – the genre generally doesn’t matter as long as the song/album/whatever I’m listening to is good and I can relate to it somehow. I grew up with the Atari 2600, NES, Sega Genesis, and SNES, though admittedly, the 2600 was very short lived and I only have 1 or 2 memories of playing it. The NES and Genesis, though, I have tons of memories with friends and family. Same with SNES once I finally got one. Having these sentimental bonds with these consoles, I just wanted to do what I could to either make a game or help make a game on these consoles that might give someone some cool memories with their friends and families when playing a new game. -Do you have a favorite console you prefer to program for? Well, aside from PC, I only program for the Sega Genesis. I’ve had to outsource the other projects on other consoles. So, I guess yeah, because I only program for one -What tools do you use to code? I use SecondBASIC (www.sbasic.net) for the programming language. It’s built off of the Basiegaxorz ASM library. I created SecondBASIC as BEX was seemingly abandoned by its author, and with the permission of the author, I was able to use that library to build SecondBASIC/SecondBASIC Studio. For graphics, I use PXL Workshop – another tool I’ve created, that lets you create multi-layered graphics for the Sega Genesis, creates optimized tile maps, and some other handy features. And lastly, I made a map editor called Magellan, which handles the map, tiles, meta tiles, and objects. Magellan at work, building levels for the Genesis iteration of Eyra-The Crow Maiden -In addition to programming games, you also publish games from other developers. What services does Second Dimension advertise to potential clients? Who do you wish to attract with your services? I do production runs for customers (make them CIB’s for them to sell on their websites), make boxes, websites, and even commission work to make games for others. We try to be as accommodating for as much as we can. -Do the permanent members of Second Dimension have particular roles or specialties? What does the division of labor look like on a given project? They sure do! Second Dimension is 2 people – Jav and myself. The division of labor looks something like this: · Myself: o Game Design o Story Writing o Website related work (new domains if applicable, updating main website, etc.) o Social Media o Programming o Trailer creating/directing o Prepping print materials (manuals, box templates, labels, etc.) o Manufacturing · Jav: o Game Design o Story Writing o Social Media o Pixel Art o Box/Manual Art o Artwork for the trailer o Concept design/art Of course, this is just a rough outline. Each project demands different tasks and workloads, but these are the more normalized task list we both have. -Is Second Dimension hiring? Are you looking to bring on more partners, generally or with particular skills, to expand your capabilities? We’re not actively looking to bring anyone on, but if an opportunity comes up, we’re always ready to talk about it, ya know? -What was the working dynamic like in your development of The Curse of Illmoore Bay and Eyra-The Crow Maiden, especially given that there were effectively 3 distinct development teams for each console Eyra would be published for? How difficult is it managing development teams producing the same game for different consoles given the unique challenges inherent to the NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis? The working dynamic was awesome. We had lots of fun with creating Illmoore, and same with Eyra. With Illmoore, we knew where we wanted to go with the game. We had the idea, we had the concept, but 99% of the development was off-the-cuff. There was probably a dozen power-ups we had thought of, and some we tried, but decided to cut because they weren’t fundamentally compatible with the overall game, or they were very burdensome to get working properly. The story was written in a very ad-hoc manner as well. Eyra is more straightforward, though, a lot (on the Genesis side at least) is still very ad-hoc. We’re trying to keep the SNES version as straightforward with the NES version, and that’s a lesson in “buckling down and getting all the details straight” for me, because that’s not how I normally do things. Managing the teams is just conversation among friends. I don’t like being the “hard-ass” boss and I want to let everyone have as much creative freedom as possible, and I think that makes for a better end result. If folks don’t enjoy the project and process, it shows. Even if we don’t put out a blockbuster, we still want people to enjoy it and I don’t think that’s possible if we didn’t enjoy making it. -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing The Curse of Illmoore Bay and Eyra-The Crow Maiden as opposed to previous projects from a programming perspective? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? Ugh. Illmoore gave me a nasty surprise at the end of development – it didn’t work at all on PAL consoles. On top of that, there’s a nasty bug in the audio driver that has the potential to freeze the console. Right when I thought I had finished the game, that reared its ugly head and I’m pretty sure I had heartburn and night sweats for a month and a half straight. The biggest lesson I learned with that is no matter how much you think you know, don’t be afraid to ask for help. That doesn’t just apply to programming, and sometimes we just need that little reminder. -You also got actor Danny Tamberelli to provide voice acting for The Curse of Illmoore Bay, how did that come about? Was there an existing connection between you two? Honestly, it was a shot in the dark. I wanted to try and get someone that I think would enjoy the theme of the game, and if possible, someone who was influential back then. There were a few people and agents I had spoken to but being brand new to the world of SAG contracts/projects, there were some hurdles and roadblocks. So, about to give up, I wrote some final contacts I had and got a response from Danny (and much, much later, Michael Maronna). While I couldn’t get Michael on board (largely because the project was nearly finished at that time and I was already over budget), it was still great to chat with him about retro games. Talking with the Pete’s about retro games may be the most 90s thing I’ve ever heard -The Kickstarters for both games were wildly successful, meeting their initial funding goals in less than 24 hours, blowing past several stretch goals, and getting special praise from Kickstarter. How does it feel to bask in such support? Honestly, it’s still surreal to me. It’s amazing that there are people out there that like what we’re doing, and I’m very thankful and grateful for every single fan out there. One of my childhood best friends and I talk about how crazy it all is from time to time. If you told me when I was a kid that I would be making video games, I’d have been excited, but also not believed you. If you told me back when I made Hangman SG that I’d be a part of something like Illmoore or Eyra, I wouldn’t have believed you back then, either. Screenshot from Hangman SG -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon? Any dream projects? The Project Creation Center is always brainstorming new ideas all the time, and while we have a few cool ideas in the works, the main one we’re excited for is Affinity Sorrow, which is going to be our next campaign. We’ll have some really crazy news about it when the time comes. -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? Phantom Gear is probably one of the big ones I’m very interested in playing, same with Irena. There are also a few others out there that aren’t revealed yet, so I can’t say too much about those titles. Really, any new game that comes out I’m interested in giving a play. People put their hard efforts in, and I’d like to show them as much support as I can. -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? Thanks for the interview! And to the readers and fans – thank you. Without you, there wouldn’t be Second Dimension. Javier Leal @Pixel_Javi -Before we dive into The Curse of Illmoore Bay and Eyra-The Crow Maiden, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a homebrewer? What is the origin story of Jav? Well. I've been working on video games for 15 years or something like that. I've been drawing since I can remember, studied art, photography, Graphic Design and 3D animation so all of that combined with the fact that I've been also gaming for most of my life, it felt natural to make video games. Developing games has been the only work I've been able to fully enjoy ever. Back in 2006 I founded a local game company with a couple of friends where we made educational and advertising games. After a decade or so we started drifting apart, each one to our preferred styles and platforms. Since I was already leaning heavily into pixel art and retro games by then it felt natural that I ended making homebrew. I really like working with all the restrictions and limited resources it implies because I found it requires a lot of creativity and that feels good. -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? It's hard for me to pinpoint any person in particular that has influenced me (I need to work on that), but some names that definitely need to be mentioned are Koji Igarashi, Tom Kalinske, Gary Gygax, Akira Toriyama, Bruce Timm, Tim Burton, Gunpei Yokoi... IDK I try to learn something from everyone. I have a habit of playing as many games as I can regardless of them being good or bad, and if I like them or not, just to study them and find out what works and what doesn't, for me and in general. I usually love the work of Wayforward and Tribute games and I also pay attention to games published by Devolver Digital. Also, I'm always combing Twitter in search for cool indie games, artists and devs, especially if they work on homebrew for old consoles. -Do you feel that your art has any qualities that are uniquely you? How would you describe your aesthetic? Not really, I don't feel unique or special in that sense. I've never felt that I have a style or an aesthetic, I just try to adapt my art as much as I can to the needs of the project, which I think comes from my graphic design training. Right now my aesthetic would be "16-bit 90s games" or something like that. My sprites and drawings for Illmoore were really cartoony and right now I'm making some Japanese-styled pixel art and manga illustrations for our next project (Not that I can pull that style flawlessly, but I try). Backgrounds to boss stages from The Curse of Illmoore Bay designed by Jav -Have you noticed any changes in your style or game development preferences over the years? I've improved a lot in the last two years, and feel more confident with shading and creating my own color palettes. I normally have a lot of silly rules when making art that help me be consistent in a particular style, but now I'm allowing myself to break those rules and do some experimenting as long as the results look good. I feel that's a big change for me. I started making more illustrations and graphic design and not just in-game art, I enjoy working on cover arts and cartridge boxes and labels. Right now I wouldn't want to work on anything that doesn't have to do with retro games and homebrew. -Another fascinating aspect of your pixel art is that you are involved with homebrew games across multiple consoles. What has led you to transcend consoles when many other brewers prefer to stick to one console? Change is good hehe, and by going out your comfort zone is how you really improve because you have to face all sort of challenges and that ties with all of this requiring a lot of creativity that I was talking about in the first answer. So that's it; I find it fun and challenging working for different consoles and since we have the needed resources in Second Dimension to do that it's a win-win situation which leads me to feeling comfortable tackling new styles and platforms. -Do you have a favorite console you prefer to program for? Well I don't code, I only do art but the answer is SEGA Genesis / Mega Drive. I love the color palette, it's always a joy to work with and I'm really used to working for that console so it's by far my favorite. -What tools do you use to code and create? My favorite tools are a pencil and a piece of paper... Those are the bases of pretty much everything I create, and I can't live without them. Besides that, I mainly use Krita and GIMP for both Illustrations and Pixel Art and Aseprite for sprite animations. All of that combined with our own internal Second Basic Studio tools coded by Adam for Second Dimension. -What was the working dynamic like in your development of The Curse of Illmoore Bay and Eyra-The Crow Maiden, especially given that there were effectively 3 distinct development teams for each console Eyra would be published for? How difficult is it developing a game for three different consoles given the unique challenges inherent to the NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis? The development for both games was pretty different. In Illmoore´s case, since it was our first project together, we first outlined the game in general as well as all the graphic content it would need and the core gameplay mechanics. While I was dedicated to making the majority of the graphics, Adam was programming the engine and the core gameplay mechanics. Once that was done, the rest of the game was done pretty quickly. Also, once the graphics for a level were finished, they were sent to Sebastián who drew inspiration from them to compose the music. In Eyra´s case, I already had the game outlined and also much of the graphic content made, only they were in a Gameboy palette. We started by converting all the graphics into NES graphics and then the programmer made the game. We balanced it at the same time it was being programmed. For the 16-bit version we took the NES graphics as a starting point. I started by creating new backgrounds for the stages and then I added more colors and animation frames to the rest of the graphics where it was needed. Screenshot from Gameboy mockup of Eyra-The Crow Maiden From my point of view it wasn't much of a challenge because it was an iterative process and the 16-bit graphics were created from the NES ones which I had already done. -Tell me about the development of the cover art you created for the Regular Editions for The Curse of Illmoore Bay and Eyra-The Crow Maiden, what is your composition process? My composition process is pretty standard, nothing too complex or weird. I start by writing a few descriptions or ideas in a piece of paper, I start visualizing the art while doing that and then I make a couple of very rough sketches just to have on hand. For the standard edition of Eyra I went with a very pulpy/retro style inspired by old pulp and sci-fi book covers and also trying to mimic western NES covers a bit. It's more of a classic realistic painting, I even used a canvas texture on it to make it look old and less digital. I also tried to tell a bit of the story with the cover art, it tells about the character, the enemies, and the setting of the game, you can sort of figure out what it is about just by looking at it (at least that was my intention). I also did the mid-tier cover for Eyra, that the Kickstarter deluxe edition if I remember correctly. For that one I used my personal and preferred art style, it's a lot more cartoon/anime looking with flat colors and cel shading. I wanted to do something more Japanese looking and different from the standard cover, so I drew Eyra having a chill moment with her Crow while they walk through the desert. Jav’s cover art as seen on Eyra-The Crown Maiden’s Famicom edition -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing The Curse of Illmoore Bay and Eyra-The Crow Maiden as opposed to previous? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? I'd say that we didn´t encounter any major challenges or surprises because we already knew what we were up against, what we were going to do, and we always kept the projects within a manageable scope. I think that that is a good way to tackle these kinds of projects, to have a clear idea of what you are going to face, advance one task at a time keeping in mind the end result, and documenting the process. Along the way I learned that it is very fun and rewarding launching games for retro consoles in physical format, I can't recommend it enough. -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon? Any dream projects? I also remember your work with Tacha on Kung Fu UFO, do you plan to revisit that game in the future? I have plenty of dream project ideas waiting to be developed when the time is right... We are currently and slowly developing an RPG called Affinity: Sorrow, I have been working on concept art, illustrations and graphics for it for some time now. That's our next big project and it should be coming to Kickstarter anytime soon. It taps into a very classic formula that we really love, we are looking at 16-bit JRPG games like FF6, Breath of Fire, Chrono Trigger, Dragon Quest amongst others for inspiration. I really want to focus on that game as much as I can for the whole development process. We have already shown some stuff from it on our social media and there's a lot more coming. As for Kung-Fu UFO, it can be fun to revisit that game someday, it was a bit of a too ambitious project for us back when we launched the Indiegogo campaign so we couldn't keep working on it when it didn't reach the goal but with the right amount of time and needed resources it can be a great experience. Gameplay gif from Kung Fu UFO by Retro Nerve -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? All of them haha! Actually my friends at Bits Rule are making a really amazing platformer for the Mega Drive called Phantom Gear that I can't wait to play. I backed their Kickstarter campaign last year so all that’s left is to wait for the cartridge to arrive when the game is finished. Demons of Asteborg also looks really good, that's another Mega Drive game I'm looking forward to playing. But to be honest every homebrew game I see has something interesting that gets me excited to play it. -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? I would like to thank you for the opportunity to tell a bit of our experience and also thank all of the amazing people that help and supports our work by buying, playing, and sharing our games. Sebastian “Tacha” Abreu @tachbach -Before we dive into The Curse of Illmoore Bay and Eyra-The Crow Maiden, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to be a musician? What led you to compose music for homebrew games? What is the origin story of tachabach? First of all I want to thank you for your interest in interviewing me, I feel flattered. Well, I think I'm going to extend a little since your question is quite broad. I think everything started when I was in the tummy of my pregnant mother, she played piano 9 hours per day, J.S. Bach was her favorite, she also played Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin. Unfortunately that piano was sold when I was only 5 years old so I could not enjoy it with my hands. Later in 1989, my father bought a "great keyboard", a Casio CT-420 that we still have, in it came a demo of Richard Clayderman (Ballad Four Adeline), which at the age of 9 I learned to play almost exactly perfect. That same year my mother put together a group of music and dance called "The Aras" in which several girls and boys between 14 and 16 years old sang and danced. My older brother (Gustavo Abreu) was 11 years old, my mother (Silvia Teresita Mederos), and I took turns to musicalize that group, we come to play about 30 times, always in medical clinics in the neighborhood, in some hospitals in the area of pediatrics, always to raise funds for the benefit of these institutions. In 1990 at the age of 9-10 I played the electric bass in a group with my parents, my older brother and several friends of my parents. My father always loved sharing music with his family and he always encouraged us. Well, when I entered adolescence (and one wants to follow his rebellious path), I met the power of the distortion of the electric guitar, there was never going back. Already for the year 1996 I literally slept with the guitar in my bed, took her to the bathroom, I sat down to eat with the guitar, even had 6 friends a close encounter with a UFO at the San Luis Seaside and I remember that I had the guitar hanging and while we witnessed a show from another world in the middle of the field I did not stop playing my favorite guitar lick (it's absurd that I'm remembering this, hahaha). Something that is interesting is that in the 90's I had a TK90 and a couple of years a ZX Spectrum +2 with which it programmed music entirely in Basic. I remember that I had scheduled the "Two Princess" theme of the Spin Doctors with their respective guitar solo and another called "Red Eyes" by Los Buitres, making the chip Ay-3-8912 sound. I remember combining white noise with the third channel to achieve the cymbals, kick and snares. But hey, I also composed my own music which never came out of my father's house because there was no Internet, the BBS were unreachable for me at that time, either had a way to spend my Spectrum programs to PC ... Later I used to visit my friends Marcelo Alonso, Jean Paul Castroman, and Francy Bodeant who had PC (386/486) and I stayed all night in their homes while they slept, programming in the Fasttracker2, Impulse Tracker, and Scream Tracker, programs that came on CDs from weekly magazines called "PC users", I remember deleting all the patterns of several tracks to stay with the samples and compose music itself. At last was the Pentium 2 of my younger brother’s (I still kept using my ZX Spectrum + 2)... I started using ModPlugtracker (with which now I compose for SNES). It is illogical that with this program I got to sound 2 chapters of an animated series for a company in which I started working as a sound designer and music composer. Well, this company was called "Animalada 3D", there musicalized two animated series, several TV and cinema commercials. Five years later I decided to work in that field freelance. I worked from 2000 until 2018 as a singing professor at several schools in my country. Since 2012 till today I teach Music & Sound Design for Videogames in "A+" and "BIOS" (two of the most important institutes that teach video games in Uruguay). I have been able to musicalize more than 70 pieces of TV and cinema in the field of advertising for more than 15 countries in the world, more than 40 games sonorized & musicalized like Bingo & Slot Machines, Android, IOS, Steam, Web Games, GB, Mega Drive, Commodore friend, SNES, and now very happy to have reached ATARI VCS (listen as the SID of my C64 sounds at the Pixel Cup Soccer! Hahahah). Basically, tacha plays all of the instruments -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? My musical influences (bands and people that I have listened to in my life and to this day I still enjoy): Silvia Teresita Mederos (my mother), Juan Eliseo Abreu (my father), Alfredo Zitarrosa, Les Luthiers, Los Olimareños, Grupo Seremos, María Elena Walsh, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Cindy Lauper, Stevie Wonder, Creedence, Carlos Santana, Rolling Stones, The Doors, Dire Straits, Oasis, Pearl Jam, Spin Doctors, Lenny Kravitz, Extreme, Megadeath, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Europe, La Iojansebastian, La Cura Del Sueño, Van Halen, Mr BIG, Iron Maiden, Guns 'n Roses, ANGRA, Shaman, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Laura Pausini, Ricardo Montaner, Enanitos Verdes, Fito Paez, Charly García, Dream Theater, Fat Boy Slim, Mozart, Chopin, Beethoven, Johann Sebastian Bach (my favorite), John Williams, Jonathan Dunn (Ocean Software), Savaged Regime, David Wise, Richie Kotzen, Rafael Dos Santos, Federico Amir, Andre Matos, and I'm sure I have tons to name. -Do you feel that your music has any qualities that are quintessentially you? How would you describe your aesthetic? Specifically for about 20 years I have been studying about the functioning of the brain and how it reacts to different harmonies and melodies, how music and the handling of frequencies generate different chemical states of the body-mind and how this fosters different states of mood-feelings. This led me to lose interest in wanting to be a virtuoso-sprinter musician (both on the flute and on the electric guitar) or to be a virtuoso of the slap on the bass, on the contrary, I began to acquire a taste for simple melodies and very easy to remember, to generate pleasant grooves for the body, making silence a better ally than sound itself. Somehow I can say that I am not interested in copying anymore I have no need. I am one of the people who knows that knowledge comes from within, that music is infinite, that's why I try to treasure every melody that comes to me spontaneously. I am also the type of person who feels what an artist felt or manifested when he painted a picture or composed music. Practicing reaching different states while awake for years has gradually awakened my intuition. I know that a lot of people can't break their rational mind to stop judging whether the performer or the composer is good or bad and that's pretty sad, since music doesn't really go ONLY for technique or good harmony. To understand, you have to create a balance between the mind and the heart, between reason and irrationality, that's when we really begin to see and when we begin to listen. I am going to leave you a little anecdote here to firmly answer your question. In 2018 when I left my flute class I found a small corner in Montevideo that had good reverberation. I took out my flute and began to play the Aria in D by J.S. Bach. (I think there were 7 people listening) as it is a piece that requires good administration of the air in the lungs, it unconsciously forces me to lower my heart rate. I was so immersed in the sound and the melody that I closed my eyes and the flute began to disappear, I began to disappear, only music existed and I was one with the universe, the mind ceased to exist, I felt in a spring of crystalline water of infinite sweetness, where I didn't need anything because I had everything, until I had to return to the plane of the living because the Bach piece had ended. When I saw the people around me, I realized that nobody noticed what happened to me and I honestly did not care in the least. Surely if I wanted to achieve that state playing jazz it would be impossible for me, sure that other musicians can rise playing jazz but my essence is simple, my music is essentially simple. Regarding aesthetics, it depends on what I need to convey, as I can cover many musical styles (all with different aesthetics). We should all be so lucky to have such an ethereal experience -Tell me about the development of The Curse of Illmoore Bay and Eyra-The Crow Maiden’s music for SNES and Genesis, what is your composition process? Is the creative process different compared to when you compose more traditional music? Were there different processes for composing for Eyra for two different consoles (SNES versus Genesis)? Was there a different approach for The Curse of Illmoore Bay versus Eyra-The Crow Maiden? The composition process takes place in my head. I can give you a Gameboy track but in my head those few channels that sound like chiptune are a symphony orchestra, obviously you can't put a symphony in a GB (if not with extra hardware). That is why for the different consoles the composition process is the same, the console is only a means to express it. Regarding the Mega Drive, I am very close to it and I love how the FM and PSG chips reconstruct a clear sound wave. I know what its limitations are and depending on the composition I try to adapt the synthesizers to be able to convey the idea as accurately as possible. With regard to the SNES, I am also very fond of their sound but above all as a spectator, we spent hundreds of hours with my brothers when a friend lent us one ... I was surprised that you have to be a true artisan of samples now that each track cannot occupy more than 58 kb approx. (64 kb maximum between music and SFX for each level). Specifically, the menu's music was made from scratch 3 times for SNES until I got the sound I wanted. The first 2 had aesthetics also the medieval aesthetics that the melody gives us but with a mixture of 80's sounds ... finally I decided to give it more POWER with guitars and a not so sober battery so I could release all my euphoria. For Illmoore Bay all the tracks except one are made of pure FX synthesis, the drums are synthesized, but in Eyra the drums are made with samples. -What tools do you use to compose, generally as well as for games? The main tool I use to compose music is my mind, my heart and my entire human being, sometimes I shut myself up to dance to feel the melodies and rhythms in the form of energy and how they extend beyond my body. When music comes to me, I look for the fastest way to store it so I don't forget it. For example, one of the pieces that I have included in Eyra occurred to me walking through the center of Montevideo when leaving one of the institutes where I teach Music & Sound Design, so I opened a group on WhatsApp in which I am alone and started to REC the "sketch". Although only my voice sounds in my head there are dozens of instruments (here I was listening to a symphonic band) but I emphasize melodies and rhythms, using certain phonemes to mark the number of instruments that "play" at a specific moment. Surely, people who see me or listen to me on the street may think that I am crazy (and it matters very little to me) while I enjoy what for me is an internal chemical-alchemical process. I also use the technique of visualizing images, mockups or gameplay videos, after having the image well recorded in my mind I start to walk down the hall of my house from one place to another (I have walked for 30 minutes) until in my head I listen to a track from beginning to end, then I sit at the computer and depending on the platform to which it is directed I open one or another program. Finally regarding the above, something that comes out unintentionally is listening to music when my mind is in the Alpha state, many times when I am sleeping peacefully I force myself to wake up and get up to look for a recording device or something to write the melodies. Since 2005 I use CakeWalk Sonar in its different variants to create music in WAV format (PC, Android, IOS, etc.) in large projects I use Steimberg and Native Instruments libraries. I use Deflemask to compose for Gameboy, C64, Mega Drive, NES and ModPlugTracker to compose for Commodore AMIGA, SNES and Gameboy. For ZX Spectrum 48k I use Beepola and for ZX Spectrum 128k I use a tracker that I programmed myself (which is very comfortable for me to compose quickly). In Eyra’s music, for the Nintendo SNES samples I used Zildjian 14"S Hi Hats cymbals picked up with a RODE NT2000 microphone, for the KICK-SNARE-TOMS sounds I recorded the samples from a ROLAND TR-505 drum machine, the basses with a Yamaha FB-01 module, the flute & sax samples are from a CASIO DH-100 with Breath control (you can say that my breath is in those samples literally), the guitar samples I recorded from an IbanezGIO with a MIC DiMarzio EVO2 Bridge STEVE VAI series connected to a Fender R212 distortion channel and captured with a Shure SM57, since the sound engine used by Alekmaul does not have an "Arpeggio" mode. I capped about 5 small square wave samples in arpeggios generated from an AY chip. 3-8912 direct from my ZX Spectrum + 2A, programmed from a Tracker that I created for the said machine, the rest of the samples I did by hand drawing the wave with the pencil tool of the Mod Plug Tracker. For mixing frequencies and looking for the sounds of the synthesizers (in the case of Mega Drive) I use two pairs of studio monitors: YAMAHA SS50M and Behringer Truth B3030A in an isolated room with 6 cm thick rock wool plates, I also check sound with AKG headphones, Sennheiser 202, on SONY Trinitron, CRT Panavox TV, on Microsonic LCD TV, and on a 5.1 Logitech 506 system. I can also count that sometimes they ask me for music for new games with retro aesthetics, instead of loading plugins that emulate the different sounds of the 80's 90's, what I do is connect my old and beloved machines (C64, ATARI 65XE , ZX Spectrum, MSX2 FM, AMIGA 500, and NES) for the exact sound. -Do you have a different approach/attitude toward the games you work on by yourself compared to those you are commissioned to work on? Is the experience of developing them different? I ALWAYS give 100% of myself to my projects as well as to other people's projects. Sometimes I think that the quality of work-monetary compensation is not very balanced, so I would have to do something "just like that" (Uruguayan expression) but I always see myself polishing the work with an extreme degree of detail so that the quality of the same is optimal. I imagine an athlete running the 100-meter sprint and the coach saying, "Hey, this race is not that important, just run, if you finish 7th it will be fine." Well, I would be the athlete who would think "What the hell am I going to run for if I am not going to do my best?" You know, I could jam a bass over a constant pattern drum base and then jam melodies in Mixolydian mode for 1 minute and voilà! I already have a track! But it doesn't work that way for me, for me melodies express a feeling, have life, and tell a story. Specifically for me each track is like a piece of my soul that I am letting go. I recommend sitting in front of a good audio equipment, audio monitors or with a good 2.1 to enjoy the Mega Drive & SNES soundtracks in full range frequency. -Tell me about the evolution of The Curse of Illmoore Bay and Eyra-The Crow Maiden. Any interesting stories on the games’ development? Well, I can tell you The beginnings of Eyra but about my personal experience ... After the Kung Fu UFO campaign in Indiegogo failed, Jav told me that he wanted us to make a game that he had in hand for the Gameboy Classic, which consisted of a platformer starring a female character set in medieval times, with Golden Axe and Rastan tints, which is why I started working at that very moment first of all on the main soundtrack for that console. (It was Thursday, November 1, 2018). The track took me about 4 days to dedicate a few hours to the Gameboy version https://youtu.be/wKg9xXy64sg and about 2 hours to do the conversion for Nintendo NES https://youtu.be/LJKscFWpb3w, using the Deflemask program. On the first day Jav sent me the first Spritesheet with which I also started to "Sketch" in Mega Drive what the GB game would be. https://youtu.be/j_4GjA4-Ppg. In that he tells me that he did not have the name for the character because he had a surprise to introduce myself with him, so while I was programming I also began to inquire about the different cultures of medieval times and also on Viking women's names. I had chosen 3 that I liked: "Kaira" (means immaculate), "Freya" (Viking Goddess of fertility, Love and beauty) and "Eyra" (Scandinavian goddess of health, also translated as Snow) ... but it seemed to me that the name "Eyra" was the shortest and simplest, in addition it fit perfectly with the melody of the second track (symphonic mixture with Gregorian chants) that I had thought for when we presented the game (It is a track that I will never give out and who will die with me). After talking about the name with Jav he replied: "Eyra, The Crow Maiden", telling me that the surprise was that the character would always be accompanied by a crow which would help in the battle. Art of the Norse goddess Eir (or Eyra) From making the GB sketch we focused on a version for Mega Drive, I can tell you that I was working as a programmer for Eyra (Mega Drive) for 3 months, until Jav told me that he would not work on it again if there was no money involved. Which I can understand perfectly, we had already worked hard on the Kung Fu UFO project and with a disastrous crowdfunding campaign with a truncated ending. Then Jav and Adam teamed up to create Illmoore Bay inviting me to perform the music. In the interim of Illmoore, we stayed with my wife playing Galaga for a whole weekend on my beloved ATARI 7800. At one point "PUM!" it appeared in my head how the code should be to move those "little ships". While my wife played in the Atari for an hour and a half, I had programmed in Mega Drive the movements of two hordes of ships with the graphics ripped from the internet of the same game. After that I started asking myself questions: What if instead of moving the player only from left to right, he made it move in all 4 directions? What if I set the stage with scroll? And is it added shots like in RTYPE? Within two days, I remember sitting in front of the computer when the routine of targeted shots from the enemies tore through my mind like a "PUM" hit. I sat in front of the computer and started writing for exactly 4 hours. When I finished the code, I compiled it and it worked the first time without errors ... there I said to myself "How could I have thought about stopping programming if it is something that comes from my gut, something that comes out unintentionally, something I love?" Well, at that point it occurred to me that I could program a game of ships called GALATYX * and after selling it I could make some money to be able to finance the development of Eyra for Mega Drive ... https://youtu.be/oFWWTMLR2yE (It is fun to see how each person has the experience of it and sometimes it is in agreement with others and sometimes not). The crazy thing about all this is that life never turns out to be as one imagines it, the threads intertwine in unexpected ways. Finishing Illmoore Bay, one afternoon I get the call from Jav. He tells me that a unique opportunity had come up and it was to perform Eyra for the NES with a programmer and a musician, while Adam would be the visible face on Kickstarter ... to which I answered the honest truth, "I think It's fantastic that you can continue to grow and make your way, nobody or nothing ties you to me or to Retronerve (the team that we founded the two of us). Hopefully crowdfunding comes to fruition! " Well, it was great to see how not only did he make it to goal but there was interest from Mega Drive and SNES fans in having the game for these consoles. In the meantime Adam writes to me: "hey buddy, can you make music for SNES?" apparently, he had realized that for Mega Drive I can do a good job. LOL ... well, here I see myself just today doing minimal tweaks to deliver the SNES tracks along with this interview. Something fun to tell, it was a dream experience that I had (related to the Alpha states) and I tell it below: This happened to me almost ending the entire Eyra Mega Drive OST. I was very conscious in my dream and in the same transition in which several months had already passed in which the versions of Mega Drive and SNES were already finished and delivered to the backers, sitting at my computer I went to my YouTube channel to look for the OST of Eyra, specifically the "GAME OVER" track, then I saw an image where the character appeared on a screen with a red background and clearly heard a two-voice melody, with its respective groove of drums, bass and keyboards ... slightly awake, I became aware of what I was dreaming about and that that music and that image of "Game Over" did not yet exist. So I forced myself to get out of bed, sat at the computer, opened Deflemask and in about 5 minutes I wrote the melodies of the two voices that were still playing in my head. The next day I finished that track and I think that the same day Jav passed the Game Over image to the development team ... to my surprise the image was the same as I had dreamed of, well I made the music exactly the same as I heard in my dream of the future. * (The name GALATYX is in honor of my wife Paola Galati, who has always supported me blindly but consciously in all my dreams in this and other lives) Eyra’s game over screen -How did you first connect with Adam and Second Dimension, and what is the working dynamic like as you both work on your respective aspects of the games? I remember that I was developing Kung-Fu UFO in BasiegaXorz and reading in the forums I had understood that the same programming language for Mega Drive was Obsolete, but on the same page they said that there was a new Compiler that used the same Basiegaxorz routines but that its creator was still working on it. To say the least, there was a time when I was programming Kung-Fu UFO in both languages ... but in the end I decided on Second Basic because it still had support and there was someone on the planet who could give an answer. After having several compilation problems, I contacted a group of Spanish developers who currently program for Mega Drive. One of them answered me (nothing more and nothing less than "na_th_an", the programmer of "The Mojon Twins" (I take the opportunity to send him a greeting and tell him that he is my hero for so many homebrew games from ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Mega Drive, NES, etc.). He told me about the developer of Second Dimension: "Look, his name is Adam Welch, I have written to him several times and he answers very kindly, sometimes it may take 2 or 3 days, but he always answers. His email is ... ". After immediately contacting me with this subject he answered me the same day (to my surprise), not only very kindly but he was also a warm and attentive guy to my needs. Always responding positively and a very good disposition. We spent some time exchanging emails, I commented on some bugs that I found in the compiler which he not only corrected them, but also taught me some magic trick that his compiler could do and that I did not know. To close, I take the liberty of saying that he is a very good programmer and a very good person (how many people spend hundreds of hours developing a compiler for Mega Drive totally free? Two? Well, Adam is one of them :D) The work dynamic is very easy. I have been working making music and sfx for video games since 2011 (since 2005 in advertising for TV and cinema), for this reason I know exactly what a video game needs to be at the level of an AAA in my field. Adam is aware of it so he trusts me widely. Sometimes we talk about what way to take in musical styles and I am open to all opinions, but generally I like to surprise him with something that was not expected and that exceeds his expectations. -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing The Curse of Illmoore Bay and Eyra-The Crow Maiden? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? I never really thought that there were people who wanted to follow in my footsteps. If they exist, I will only tell them to work on their dreams and desires as hard as they can, also tell them that in the face of bumps and falls there is no other option but to get up and keep walking. There are always going to be failures, there are always going to be stones in the way. The important thing is always to keep doing what you love to do, consistently. Always knocking on doors even if your hands hurt, because maybe that door that you didn't knock is just the one they were willing to open for you. DO NOT GIVE UP! -What aspects of The Curse of Illmoore Bay and Eyra-The Crow Maiden are you most proud of? HAHAH ... I am amused by the answer ... I remember it was 1993, I was sitting in front of my TK90x programming a 4 channel 1 bit music editor: 3 tone sounds and the 4th percussion. As I was programming it, I was also trying to compose some grooves to check the sound of the drums ... until at one point my father came into my room and said, laughing almost out loud: "Oh my God! Those sounds seem like farts! hahaha "... we both ended up laughing because he was right. Unfortunately I lost a lot of my 90's shows. But at that time I dreamed of making music for SNES or Mega Drive games, consoles that our parents would not buy us (me and my siblings) because they did not want to see us playing but preferred to give them a computer so that we could learn to program and design. Somehow my wish as a child-adolescent 25 years later comes true with the games that today can be enjoyed. That's what I'm proud of, to be able to create content for the consoles that RETRO-FANS love so much. -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon, SNES, Genesis, or otherwise? I can say that I am working as a programmer with two development teams for Mega Drive/Genesis. There are several games on the horizon but they will come out one by one. There will also be a homebrew for ZX Spectrum and ZX Spectrum-NEXT from STARWARS in which we were working with my friend Raulo Pachelo, who passed away over a month ago, a game that I will finish to honor him. -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? Of course, I have several favorite homebrews, for example Sword Of Ianna on ZX Spectrum (which in my opinion is an 8-bit work of art), from the same machine at home we play Alter Ego, Old Tower, Maritrini Freelance Monster Slayer, Valley of Rains (another work of art), In Mega Drive I usually play Xeno Crisis, Mega Cheril, UWOL and Illmoore Bay. In the C64 I like to play Xavier Binary Zone (with the great music of Chris Lightfoot R.I.P.) and when there are more than 4 of us we play Space Lords. Screenshot from Xeno Crisis for Seg Genesis (and other consoles) -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? First of all, I am the one who has to thank you for your patience and interest in my person, interest in my work, which is my art and the internal manifestations of my being. Personally, to the fans, I have taken a lot of time to dedicate to these soundtracks and I have put a lot of love in them so that the sound chips of your SNES and MEGA DRIVE consoles KEEP ROARING new tunes. Also say thank you for trusting us developers to do our part. Hopefully they can appreciate the work and dedication. Finally, personally I would like to count on your support for my future projects, especially for MEGA DRIVE. Pay attention. I would like to thank: Valentina Abreu, Mia Luna Abreu, Teresita Mederos, Juan Eliseo Abreu, Daniel, Nicolás, Gustavo, Juan Guillermo Abreu, Daniel J McCormick, Adam Welch, Javier Leal, Alekmaul, Sebastián Blanco, Sebastian Racedo, Mario Villar, Funfu Rafael Dos Santos, Rodolfo Guerra, Antonio Vázquez, Roberto Pachelo, Raulo Pachelo, Chivy Tayler, Paul Darwin, Daniel Lorenzo, Javier Brum, The Mojon Twins, George Prescott, Leander, Alice, Migue, Daniel Sanz, Jordi Montornés Solé, Flx, Danibus, Pedro L, Samuel, r2d2rigo, Tapule, Pablo, Manu Segura, Bruce Rodriguez, Pablo, jgnavarro, Jarlaxe, Rafa Castillo, McKlain, Felipe Mongue Corbalan, Sofi Galati, Miguel Sinclair, Daviz Pow, Ben-kenobi, wilco2009, JC Galvañ, Mikes, Fernando Samper Perez, Kuis, Pablo Cascallares, Luis Abreu, flopping, ZUPP FOX, kr4k4t04, Eduardo Fontana, Ismael Pardo Di Nardo, al Pelado, Mauro Flores, pmasterBR, Yuri D'avila, Lu, Luiz Nai, Cetics, Alexsandro, Matheus Castellar, Ariel, Luis Fernandez, Amiten, El Espectrumero Javi Ortiz, to homebrews fan sponsors, and very especially to Paola Galati for all her unconditional love. If you want to write to me you can do it at tacha.music.sfx@gmail.com Armen Mardirossian @ArmenMARD80 -Before we dive into The Curse of Illmoore Bay, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to be an artist generally, and more specifically how did you break into homebrew game art? I am a professional hand-drawn animator/story-boarder, character designer and pixel artist from France. Being primarily a hand-drawn animator and story-boarder for 20 years, I have been doing this before being involved in the homebrew/indie game scene. I began in this field in 2008 by contacting Gwenael Godde who asked me to draw the final character designs and illustrations for the game Pier Solar, as well as draw the cinematic still artworks that punctuate the game’s main events. I drew the original storyboards which were then translated into pixel art form. Cutscene art from Pier Solar and the Great Architects by Armen -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? There are several animation works, notably some anime works from the 70s, 80s or 90s which influenced my style. Without entering into details, I was inspired by the aesthetics but above all by the way these shows, which were sometimes limited in terms of animation, conveyed emotions through the way of drawing characters as well as effective cinematography and storytelling. Having my own style now for almost 20 years, I am not influenced by anything specific, and to be honest, I haven’t watched any new anime for years now. In terms of video games, I began playing at the end of the 80s. I am mostly a fan of RPGs like the Final Fantasy, Lunar, or Dragon Quest series as well as much more obscure ones. Playing these kinds of games in the course of the years has also influenced my style and work to a certain extent. -You've also created art for other homebrews, including Pier Solar, Kraut Buster, and the Battle Kid games. Do you feel that your art has any qualities that are uniquely you? How would you describe your aesthetic? For Pier Solar, I was character designer and cinematics director for the original Mega Drive release and later for its HD re-release. My style defined the final visual appearance of the characters and visual scenes for the 16-bit version, which were later used as a base for the recreation of the cinematics as well as the in-game portraits I drew and the 3-minute opening animation I directed for the HD version. Pier Solar HD opening animation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gEVmedSG0k I directed the attract mode intro and ending of Kraut Buster for the Neo Geo. I storyboarded/directed the sequence and drew the original artworks and pixel art which were then adapted by the game team to coincide with the in-game graphics style which explains why it is a bit different visually from my other works. Kraut Buster Neo Geo opening animation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNOZypqAgZc For Battle Kid 2, I created the character artworks and cutscenes when the games originally came out on the NES. I reprised this role to recreate the cutscenes in my style for Battle Kid 1 when it was reissued for the Japanese Famicom version. In the Mega Drive scene, I was also the cutscene and animation director of Tanglewood by Matt Phillips. Screenshot from Tanglewood I think what is unique to my work and contrary to other people who only create still artworks for game covers or promotional character art, is that I am in general asked to create animated introduction or cinematics to improve the overall game experience. This allows to convey more emotions and attract more interest through a cinematographic sequence rather than a simple still artwork. I know excerpts from the opening animation of Pier Solar HD were for example used for the 2014 E3 game trailer which helped to promote the game on modern platforms to a new audience. Also in terms of pure style/aesthetic, I tend to put a lot of care and attention when drawing the expressions and posing of the characters. -What tools do you use to create your art? For animation, I use Adobe programs such as Photoshop, after effect effects and premiere and a specific Japanese app to draw and color the animation cells and artworks efficiently. -Your art includes Flipnote animation of The Legend of Zelda and artwork inspired by Death Stranding. Is the experience of developing art from an existing world of established characters more limiting or is it more fun to play in a more defined sandbox? The Zelda Flipnote was submitted to Nintendo in 2011 for the 25th anniversary of Zelda, before they begin the dev on breath of the wild and it was seen by the main creators of the series such as Miyamoto, Aonuma, Takashi Tezuka. (Nintendo people had also seen the Pier Solar HD trailer when it came out in 2014). It’s funny to think I had showed in this animation Link with a hood at the edge of a cliff looking at the castle, so who knows maybe it inspired them or at least some of the Nintendo dev team? I think it is pretty interesting to create something based on a preexisting universe and put your own take on it, especially if it’s a franchise you love. It’s not necessarily limiting but different from something you create from the ground in terms of story, character and world setting. For example I had created in 2005 a personal animation short which was an original work titled Human Recollections I had submitted to the Japanese animation company STUDIO4°C (known for producing the Steamboy, Animatrix and the Berserk anime) for the next Genius Party contest in 2007. It remained on their page for several weeks allowing it to be seen by Japanese animation/game studios like Ghibli, Madhouse, Nintendo and such. This gives you a total freedom in terms of creativity but is also much more time consuming/complex to determine the tone of the universe that will be shown. -Tell me about the development of the art you created for the Limited Edition for The Curse of Illmoore Bay, what is your creative process? Actually it was a rather short process as the characters weren’t complex to draw in terms of detail. I looked at the original cover which was available and created the art in my own style and by giving a dynamic pose to the characters. -How did you first connect with Adam and Second Dimension, and what was the working dynamic like? After Pier Solar came out in 2010, Adam was developing an RPG called Affinity Sorrow, I drew the main characters design/model sheets back then. But if I remember correctly the dev stopped sometime later. Apparently, development on the game has started again last year. We’ve been hearing a lot about this one, better keep an eye on it -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in your work on The Curse of Illmoore Bay? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? Actually, there wasn’t anything special which happened. As I said, it was a very straightforward process to create the cover art. -Is there another project after The Curse of Illmoore Bay on the horizon? Another dream project that you hope to bring into existence, video game or otherwise? I can’t talk about it for now, but there may be something in the future. -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? Nothing in particular comes to my mind, but what I notice is that compared to 2010 when Pier Solar came out, there is now much more games which are being developed in the indie/homebrew scene. -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? I think it’s nice that people are still interested by playing new games on their old consoles. Their passion allows developers to still create new games for these old platforms. Conclusion: Thanks for tuning in to part one of two, in this latest entry of the series that shares the stories behind your favorite new homebrew games. What are your thoughts on The Curse of Illmoore Bay and Eyra-The Crow Maiden and its talented development teams? What homebrews are you eagerly looking forward to? Perhaps you’ll see them here soon when…A Homebrew Draws Near! Command?
  8. Did you notice that all Nintendo systems coming after the N64 have their own version of Super Smash Bros? It is a shame that this (wonderful) experience is not ported to earlier systems! Super Tilt Bro. for NES is my humble attempt at filling this void. It adapts this fun and nervous gameplay to the NES and its eight buttons controller. You can freely download the ROM, play in a browser or hack the source. It now has an ONLINE mode! Short story: Wi-Fi chipset in the cart. Long story: here. Register for mail notification on the physical release. To find an online opponent, join the discord. Here is the trailer: In this topic there will be different kinds of updates: Technical highlights: small articles about technical challenges of developing Super Tilt Bro. and how they are solved. Patch notes: when the game receives an update, details are available right here. News: Less often, I may announce something big (like a new physical edition)
  9. Deadeye

    007 Lizard

    Another long play episode with developer commentary and interview. This episode is on Lizard, a NES homebrew, and joining me is @rainwarrior
  10. Figured I might as well start showing off my nice pickups! First up is Holly Jolly NES Mix, a Christmas music cart. Been looking for awhile and going to enjoy it for many holidays to come. Thanks @MattyB !
  11. A Homebrew Draws Near! A blog series by @Scrobins Episode 3: Anguna: Scourge of the Goblin King Introduction: Just about every classic console has experienced new life with the rise of homebrew games to supplement its library. However few homebrewers develop games beyond one preferred console. Those brewers who dare to branch out find new challenges to enhance their skills, and new audiences eager to play with the fruits of their efforts. For this entry, I’m covering Anguna: Scourge of the Goblin King (formerly Anguna Zero), an action-adventure game for the NES by Nathan Tolbert, with music by Thomas Cipollone, and character graphics by Chris Hildenbrand. Anguna is preceded by three franchise siblings released for three different consoles. As of the time of this writing, Anguna is in-development and nearing completion, but an early build of the game is available to Nathan’s Patreon supporters. UPDATE: On May 21, 2021, Anguna: Scourge of the Goblin King launched on Kickstarter, meeting its initial funding goal within its first few hours. The game will be published by The 6502 Collective. Development Team: @gauauu/Bite the Chili Productions (Nathan Tolbert): programming and game design @humanthomas (Thomas Cipollone): music SpriteAttack (Chris Hildenbrand): character graphics Game Evolution: Nathan’s Anguna games have a long lineage, and to appreciate Anguna for the NES, I must begin with its forebears. Nathan joined the development side of the homebrew community in 2004 when he decided to learn programming and bought a Gameboy Advance flash cart. By 2008, Nathan released Anguna: Warriors of Virtue for the Gameboy Advance as well as the Nintendo DS. The game took the best elements of The Legend of Zelda and instilled its own personality. Anguna: Warriors of Virtue featured 5 dungeons spread across a vast overworld populated with a variety of monsters guarding hidden rooms and power-ups. Screenshot from Anguna: Warriors of Virtue In 2014, Nathan announced he had begun work on a port/sequel to Anguna: Warriors of Virtue for the Atari 2600 simply titled Anguna. Over the next few years, Nathan worked on this Anguna game with the help of eager beta-testers on AtariAge. By 2017, a final build of the game was available for purchase. Like its predecessors, Anguna offered players a sprawling overworld speckled with dungeons and monsters. A unique feature allowed players to save their progress with a password or an AtariVox, a device that plugs into the console’s second joystick port and can save data. Anguna 2600, Minty Cart & Manual In April 2020, Nathan announced that he was nearing completion of an NES port of his Anguna 2600 game in posts on Video Game Sage and NESDev. This new game, Anguna would carry over the big overworld, experience points system, and the in-game inventory and map screen of its Atari sibling, but with enhanced graphics and the chiptune stylings of Thomas Cipollone. Gameplay Overview: Anguna is an action-adventure game with roots in The Legend of Zelda as well as other adventure gems of the NES’ licensed era. You begin the game armed with your sword, locked away in the first dungeon; but by the time you reach the first boss you will have (hopefully) gained a bow & arrow. Once you escape, you will find yourself in an expansive overworld open to exploration and dotted with an assortment of monsters ranging from the familiar slime to sentient wisps of flame. Although the game’s world is vast, an in-game inventory also provides a map to chart your exploration and assuage the anxiety of players who fear getting lost. Especially if you’re always taking that wrong turn at Albuquerque. Anguna channels Crystalis with an experience points system that will increase and replenish your life meter with each level-up. But you needn’t wait for a level-up if your health reaches critical because some monsters will transform into a fully cooked rotisserie chicken when defeated à la Castlevania or Streets of Rage. I’m not comparing it to Zelda because you don’t know what kind of “meat” that is Also scattered throughout the landscape are keys that open more of the world and allow access to special items such as dynamite (which is a key of sorts, only louder). Once you’ve obtained some power-ups for the first time, enemies will start dropping them in battle, which is very nice of them. While experience level-ups increase your health, swords and shields are hidden throughout the world that will level-up your attack and defense respectively. Some of these power-ups are in plain sight and others are hidden in secret rooms, requiring either a special item or your cunning in finding secret passageways to reach them. Anguna’s story is simple, you’ve been captured by the minions of the Goblin King. You need to break out, then find and vanquish the Goblin King to save the day. Apparently this is a regular thing with you. Fortunately, the Goblin King reads from Dr. Evil’s playbook and he put you in an easily escapable situation with 2 inept guards…er, slimes (no word yet on the overly elaborate and exotic death). Beyond that, the story is what you make of it: no dialog with supporting characters, no continents of more difficult monsters across a bridge requiring bouts of grinding, no handholding. Writer’s Review: Anguna uses its setting and minimal premise to provide a game that lets your imagination dominate. The prologue sets up enough story for you to understand where you begin and where you will end, but you won’t be required to keep track of information fed to you by other characters or locate the town or dungeon you’re “supposed” to visit next. As much as I like an immersive story, I also appreciate a game that trusts my gamer’s intuition enough to assume I already know the basics and can figure out the rest. There are enough locked gates and obstacles to prevent you from blundering into the final boss in the first 5 minutes, so don’t worry about accidentally taking shortcuts that might shortchange your gameplay. However if you are the type of player who doesn’t like to be completely adrift, the overworld map in your inventory charts your exploration, showing where you are and where you’ve been. Using your intuition toward gaps in the map will force you to consider what you should do next and make a few hunches about what you will find. This design makes Anguna both challenging and fun. Instead of being spoon-fed every step of my quest, the environment’s limits informed me. For instance, in my first playthrough, I reached the first boss before obtaining the bow & arrow. It was immediately clear during the battle that my sword was insufficient, and somewhere nearby was a more suitable weapon. There’s got to be a better way! The game’s controls are intuitive: one button swings your sword, the other uses special items once you’ve found them, and the d-pad offers crisp 8-directional movement for exploring every last pixel of the land and dungeons for secrets. The graphics convey an ancient, lived-in world with a mythos left blank for you to fill in. Nathan is skilled in providing just enough detail to set a mood without overwhelming you. I loved how the dungeons’ brickwork is apparent by a few patches on the walls and floor, communicating a sense of texture and decay, substance and ambiance, without programming a brick pattern across the entire screen that would otherwise distract me from anything else happening in the game. I also enjoyed the character’s design and animation. The protagonist’s red armor stands out, and I love how his entire body (including his cape) moves when he swings his sword; it’s reminiscent of Link but with more motion. Chris’ designs for several of the monsters recall classic NES staples, offering an air of familiarity but with their own unique look. Snakes behave like the Ropes of The Legend of Zelda and the Loopers of StarTropics but look much cuter. Anguna’s slimes are decidedly less adorable than their Dragon Warrior siblings but are the same initial sword fodder that help you get a feel for the controls. As Nathan sketches a landscape of adventure, Thomas’ music fills in the picture with the color of his music. Tracks are more than a quick theme looping over and over; each song begins with a sound that feels instantly appropriate for the setting it accompanies but builds and evolves with time. The overworld theme starts over simple and adventurous but soon crackles with excitement, as if to celebrate you survived long enough to hear it to completion. The dungeon theme begins with a sense of mystery but accelerates with tension, warning you of the dangers deeper within. There is also something else familiar about Thomas’ soundtrack; it is evocative of the chiptunes of classic NES games. More than that, as I tried to put my finger to what felt so familiar, I realized the music reminded me of the great soundtracks of Realtime Associates, who worked on such games as Maniac Mansion and Dick Tracy. This logo is aggressively early 90s and I love it Anguna is an excellent example of a game going “back to basics”, stripping down an action-adventure to its most essential elements and doing them justice. This game is addictive in its simplicity. When you die, you might grumble aloud that you’re going to give the gave one more try. And then you realize you’ve told yourself that over and over for the past hour. And even then you’re going to keep playing. Interviews: Anguna: Scourge of the Goblin King is a game that pulls together the most fun ingredients of an action-adventure and elevates each to create a fun game in which my imagination can run wild with a blank canvas. I spoke with Nathan and Thomas to learn more. (Note: these interviews took place before the game's official release, therefore all references to the game use the then-working title Anguna Zero). gauauu -Before we dive into Anguna Zero, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a homebrewer? What is the origin story of Nathan Tolbert? I've been interested in programming video games for almost as long as I could read. My parents bought a TI-99 4/a computer when I was young, and it had a book called "Beginner's Basic" that we started working through as a family. Everyone else in the family immediately got bored of it, but I was hooked, and started making terrible video games. In 2003 or so, (just a couple years out of college, and newly married), I discovered homebrew, and was immediately fascinated with the idea. My dream had always been to make a game for a real console! I started looking around to see what system had homebrew that was both relatively easy to write, and also inexpensive to get started on. Gameboy Advance looked like a winner. In 2004 I picked up a GBA flash cart at a street market (we were living in China at the time) and started programming. I knew that I wanted to make either a Zelda-like adventure, or a Blaster Master-inspired metroidvania adventure (which I'm finally working on 15 years later!) Somehow the Zelda-like idea won out in my mind. I made a one-level demo with terrible graphics, and Chris Hildenbrand showed up and volunteered to help redo the graphics, which led to the GBA and DS versions that I ended up releasing a couple years later. -What is the significance of the Bite the Chili name as well as your gauauu username on VGS and NESDev? Bite the Chili Productions is a silly reference to the very first internet advertisement that I saw. Back in the mid 90's, there were all sorts of banner ads like "Punch the monkey and win a prize!". Aw man, I can’t wait to post about this on GeoCities and tell all my friends on AIM! The first time we got on the internet, it was with slow dial-up, and we waited maybe 5 minutes for a page to load. The very first thing we saw was a banner ad saying, "Bite the Chili to win!" It was a running joke among my friends, and just stuck. Similarly, the name gauauu was a high-school joke based on me not liking the game Final Fantasy 3 (or whatever number they call that game in the reset of the world). I made fun of the Gau character, and somehow I kept the name. Strange that my name is based on a character and game that I don't even like. Some things are best left on the Veldt. -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? My influences are primarily the old NES games that captured my imagination as a kid. Zelda, Metroid, Blaster Master, Ninja Gaiden, etc. were just amazing to me, and have formed my idea of what a fun video game is. I don't really play a lot of newer games, although the games VVVVVV and Killer Queen are two modern games that have really pushed me to think about game design. As far as who I'm watching now -- at this point, I mostly enjoy the community aspects -- talking about design decisions in our games, and seeing others work through their big games. I'm most interested in anyone in the NES community that's regularly posting updates about what they're working on. Things like Nova the Squirrel 2, Chris Cacciatore's in-progress Zelda-like Janus, and watching Paul work on his Alwa port, are super fun for me. I'm probably forgetting lots of others. Paul Molloy aka InfiniteNESLives showing off his progress on an NES port of Alwa’s Awakening -Your work on the Anguna series spans generations of gaming consoles from the Atari 2600 to the Nintendo DS. In developing your games would you say they have any qualities that seem quintessentially you that you have maintained across platforms? How would you describe your aesthetic? One of the essential things about Anguna and the various ports/sequels, is that there's only a silly little introductory plot, and nothing else as far as dialog, towns, or story progression. There's also very little hand-holding. I really wanted to recapture the feeling from the original Legend of Zelda where you entered a world and just had to wander around to figure out where to go. I don't think I actually succeeded very well in that goal, but it formed the idea of what Anguna is: a Zelda-like where you just have to explore and see what you can find. In making the Atari port (which later also became the NES version, Anguna Zero), I decided to take the same general game pacing and structure, but rearrange the world. The first dungeon is mostly the same in all versions, and the general order of dungeons, upgrades, and progress is the same. But the world and dungeon maps are completely redesigned for the Atari version (which shares a general map with the upcoming Anguna Zero). -What tools do you use to code? I do most of my code editing in gVim on Linux (although I've also been using Jetbrains' CLion for projects that involve a lot of C). I tend to use Makefiles and python scripts to manage the build process. I also use Tiled, which is an incredibly versatile open-source tile map editor, in many of my projects. And I can't forget to mention Mesen. Without Sour's amazing emulator, this would be a much more frustrating hobby than it is. -You are also known for your entries in the Annual NESDev Coding Competition such as Spacey McRacey, Robo-Ninja Climb, Super Homebrew War, and nnnnnn, each game more addicting than the last. Do you have a different attitude toward your entries in the competition versus your “feature-length” games? Is the experience of developing them different? Yeah, I tend to view them very differently. I usually dream big: I have ideas for large games that usually take me 2-4 years to complete, with a giant scope, so they tend to occupy the bulk of my development efforts. But the NESDev competition is a great outlet for throwing together a complete game in a short amount of time. Having a target date and audience is great for helping me brainstorm a fun idea, and race to implement it as fast as possible. nnnnnn, in particular, was fun in that I wanted to see if I could make an enjoyable game in a week's worth of evenings (it helps that I stole the idea directly from vvvvvv, so I didn't have to make many game design decisions). I also like to use the compo to make 4-player games. I've always loved things like Super Bomberman, where you play with a big group of friends on a couch. And like I mentioned before, I was really inspired by the group dynamics of playing Killer Queen in the arcade. I had a particular moment, the first year I went to Midwest Gaming Classic, where I looked around a room, and watched a bunch of people playing games, but nobody talking to each other. It made me feel sad, realizing that this hobby can sometimes isolate people instead of bringing them together. So I decided to make a goal to create more 4-player games in an effort to bring people together. I can really see the difference at conventions: when a group of 4 people are all laughing together or yelling at each other playing Super Homebrew War or nnnnnn together, I feel like I succeeded in that goal. The 4th player in this stock photo is America. -You started homebrewing around 2004/2005 with your Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS game Anguna: Warriors of Virtue. How has your approach to homebrewing changed in the 15-16 years since? After finishing the original Anguna, I had wanted to make more games, but the GBA community had really dried up, and I was having trouble finding an artist. So I took a detour and made an Android game (RoboNinja, a metroidvania based on the idea of exploring a big world entirely using the overplayed guy-who-never-stops-running tap-to-jump mechanic. I still wonder if it's the world's first tap-to-jump-runner metroidvania). I had been thinking that I'd like to make NES games, but the idea of making a giant NES game entirely in 6502 assembly intimidated me. So I figured I'd start with the Atari (which also uses a 6502), thinking that it would be easier to learn on. The Atari has its own crazy challenges, so I'm not sure it was much easier, but I decided to just dive into seeing what a port/demake of Anguna would look like. I mentioned previously some of my design ideas (reworking the world but keeping the structure the same), and some of the limitations were based on the limitations of system (Anguna 2600 never mixes enemy types on one screen, because with the Atari's 128 bytes of RAM, I didn't have enough RAM to manage multiple enemy types at once). While my Atari goals were initially just to have fun playing with the system, the game turned out to generate some interest, so I happily published copies through AtariAge. After finishing that, I figured it was time to finally start on Halcyon: my Blaster Master-style game that I had been dreaming about for years. I started working on that with Frankengraphics doing art. I didn't really have any plans for a NES Anguna at the time, but this past Christmas, my progress on Halcyon was on hold while she was finishing things up with Project Blue. I was a little jealous seeing other people release cool games, and frustrated that Halcyon was taking so long, so I decided to see if I could make a medium-sized NES game in just a few months. Starting with the game design and even a good bit of code from the Atari 2600 version, it was a fun challenge to see whether I could take the Atari game, and upgrade it to a reasonable (but modest) NES adventure in a short amount of time. Which is why the title is (tentatively) Anguna Zero -- I wanted something to signify that this isn't a new big epic version that really pushes the NES to the limits, but instead of a medium-scoped adventure based on the earlier Atari game. Screenshot from Halcyon -Ever since my first episode, M-Tee planted this idea in my mind that a game’s protagonist serves as the player's point of immersion in the game, informing how we understand the game's world. I also believe that the protagonist’s design serves as a reflection of its designer. What was the intention behind the design of Anguna’s protagonist, and how has his design evolved across each prior Anguna game? The original Anguna had a subtitle "Warriors of Virtue", which referred, not to the cheesy Kangaroo adventure movie, but to an equally cheesy pen-and-paper role playing game that I designed and played with my brother and best friends back in middle school and high school. My original idea of Anguna was to take place in that world, and the character was going to be Narkstan Greenthorne, a warrior with a short fuse that my friend had played in one of our campaigns (who happened to get captured by bad guys quite often). If ever there was a character who sounded like he knew Guybrush Threepwood, it’s Narkstan Greenthorne. But when Chris reworked the graphics for him, it really changed the tone of the character, and he instead became a nameless hero, sort of a blank slate of a character. I really ended up liking that concept (which fit nicely with the silly lack of plot). You can imagine him being however you want, because he's just your vehicle for exploring the world. It's been 15 years or so, and he still doesn't even have a name (to make it even more vague, the name Anguna itself isn't the name of the character, the world, or anything. It's just the name of the game). The graphical design of the character has changed a little bit, from the Atari to the NES, but the general idea is the same: some nameless warrior, dressed in red, ready to explore the world and beat some bad guys! -Tell me more about your pen-and-paper role playing game from middle and high school. Oh man, it was terrible. My parents were among those folks that were convinced that Dungeons and Dragon was evil, but they were ok with us making up our own version. So we made up a rule set that was sort of a mix between D&D and Final Fantasy 1. And it was as horribly unbalanced and ridiculous as you'd expect from 7th graders. But somehow it became reasonably popular among the nerds (and even some of the D&D-playing jocks) at our school. We ran one campaign that lasted for a few years which was fun, and it's where the winged-bat-looking "hobgoblin" creatures from Anguna came from -- I had a bag of cheap plastic monsters from the dollar store that we used for battles, and the black bat things were the primary hobgoblin enemy from that campaign. Our game came much before the movie of the same name, so it cracked us up when the movie about warrior kangaroos came out. Nightmare fuel in its purest form -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing Anguna Zero for the NES as opposed to its Atari 2600 counterpart, or even the original game on Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? The process of making Anguna 2600 was figuring out how to simplify everything as much as possible, and scale everything back. Dynamite just made your sword blow up things. The boots were always equipped. The fun challenge of Anguna Zero was taking that scaled-down Atari version, and figuring out how to scale it back up to an appropriate game for the NES (but doing that as quickly as possible). Reworking the subscreen and map system, and fixing the inventory back to a "one item at a time" system, were the most important immediate things. I was able to reuse my metatile map tools from Halcyon to redesign each room, so that part, although completely different from the Atari version, ended up being fairly quick. The hardest part definitely ended up being the dark rooms before you have the lantern. On the GBA version, the hardware has a really easy HDMA trick for making nicely shaped pockets of lit areas surrounded by darkness (like the key effect on Super Mario World). The Atari also had a nice easy trick, almost identical to what was used in the old game Adventure, where you set the background and foreground to be the same color, but put a big orange sprite with a priority in-between foreground and background. The NES has no such easy tricks. So I just end up rewriting background tiles as you move around the room (with some nice curved sprites on the corners). In essence, it's almost the same logic as an 8-way scrolling engine (loading in new tiles at the front as you move), only it's just scrolling the area right around the player. I laughed afterwards, because I purposefully avoided any scrolling in the game (to simplify it), but I ended up spending a ridiculous percentage of my time working on that darkness effect, which is so similar to scrolling. As far as lessons learned? That's a great question. I think there's something really fun about adapting an idea across multiple systems, and learning each system as you go. But it's been such a weird random path, that I'm not sure that any sane person would aspire to it. Screenshot from Anguna for the Atari 2600 -Thomas Cipollone aka HumanThomas, who served as the music director for the Haunted Halloween games and Full Quiet is working on the music for Anguna Zero. How did you two first connect and what is the working dynamic like as you both work on your respective aspects of the game? I've been impressed with Thomas' work ever since I joined the NES scene, and we had touched base a few times in the past about the possibility of working together, but nothing had ever really been the right timing. But with Anguna Zero, I knew I wanted some cool music, and wanted something quickly. I was fairly far along when I contacted Thomas and asked if I could hire him to make a small soundtrack on a fairly short timeline, and he came through wonderfully. The working dynamic has been really simple -- I had a list of a few types of songs (overworld, dungeon, etc.), and in amazingly quick time, he handed me back some great songs. I've been so impressed with his work. -Do you have a release date in mind for Anguna Zero? Are you thinking of launching a crowdfunding campaign? Do you intend to sell the game directly, or will someone else handle distribution? The release date was supposed to be about a month ago, but the folks at the 6502 Collective (who I'm going to work with for publishing) convinced me to hire someone to do a facelift on some of the graphics. So I don't have an exact date now, but the game is finished other than those graphical improvements. Once those are in place, it will be ready to go! I don't know that we'll do a big crowdfunding campaign (I'm saving my marketing energy for Halcyon), but we'll definitely do a physical release as well as a rom release. I've been toying with the idea of doing an "Anguna collector's treasure box" release with the GBA, Atari, and NES games all in one special edition packaging, but that assumes that I can manage to make the GBA version available again. We'll see -There is a lot of buzz around another project you are working on (and mentioned earlier): Halcyon, a sci-fi metroidvania adventure with some Blaster Master vibes. How is that game progressing? Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon, NES or otherwise? Yeah, Halcyon has been a giant project -- a short of mashup of Blaster Master and Metroid. Oh man, I had originally hoped to have it finished this fall, but it's just not going to happen that early. The engine is finished other than any new special cases that we dream up for the end-game. The content (general rough maps, enemies, weapons, powerups) is probably 75% mapped out and ready, but with a lot of placeholder graphics for now. I've got a few more areas to map out, and then I need to go back and fill in a handful of bosses that I've skipped. So it's getting there, but definitely later than the fall of 2020 goal that I had been telling people. Other projects? I'm always dreaming about the next project as I get to the 50% mark on a game. I don't have anything definite, or any designs on paper, but I have dreams of doing a 4-player "party game mix" cart, an old-school RPG (possibly with an online component thanks to the awesome work that folks like Paul of Infinite NES Lives, Roger Bidon, and Broke Studio are doing in that area), a contra-like action game, and making the jump to SNES and making Anguna or some other large game there. That sounds like about 15 years of work, to do all of those, so we'll see what happens.... Broke Studio and Roger Bidon demonstrating their breakthrough in online real-time NES gaming! -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? Homebrew games that I'm excited to play? Oh man, what are all the large games that have been teased? Full Quiet, Orange Island, Trophy (although I got to help test it, so I did get to try it already), Mall Brawl, Janus, Space Soviets, and others that I probably forgot. Kevin also teased some awesome-looking cyberpunk game that I can't wait to see more of. Wouldn’t we all? -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? Thanks for giving me a chance to talk about my game, and thanks for writing these articles, it's been fun to read about the development of other upcoming games! humanthomas -Before we dive into Anguna Zero, I'd love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to be a musician? What led you to compose music for homebrew games? What is the origin story of humanthomas? My interest in being a musician started young. I started playing guitar at age 11, and have kept up with it ever since. The first homebrew game that I composed for was Haunted: Halloween '85. A friend of mine sent me a reddit post of these dudes looking for a composer for an NES game. I had no experience with the NES other than playing it, but I knew that I could pull it off. After sending my backlog of other compositions and recordings, they decided to take me on for the project. Screenshot from Haunted: Halloween ‘85 -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? From back in the day, Nobuo Uematsu, Takashi Tateishi, & Yasunori Mitsuda. The Final Fantasy, Mega Man, and Chrono Trigger soundtracks have had a huge impact on me. I didn't know it at the time, but just playing those games taught me so much about creating music for specific atmosphere and mood. More recently, I've been studying Tim Follin's NES work and Disasterpeace for modern stuff. Follin worked on NES game soundtracks such as Solstice, Treasure Master, Silver Surfer, and Taito’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade -In addition to your musical work on homebrew games, you lead a musical collaboration project called Modern Dog, in which you compose tracks that other musicians then contribute to. What inspired you to create this shared musical experience? The idea popped up around the start of the pandemic. A lot of my friends are musicians and since no one can play shows or work right now, I figured I could help take their minds off of the madness with a new approach to a recording project. The main idea is as follows - I make a base of a track and send it out to as many different players as possible. I tell them that they can add as much or as little as they like, then I pick what I like most and mix it down. The most fun part is that none of the folks contributing get to hear the other parts until the song is finalized. It has been awesome to collaborate with folks outside of my regular musical circle. Album cover art for Modern Dog’s album Night Vision -Since contributors don’t hear the final product until everything is finished, their reactions must be fun. Have these collaborations sparked inspiration for even more new music? Modern Dog will definitely be a continued project now. I hope to put a full album worth of material for it eventually. -Do you feel that your music has any qualities that are quintessentially you? How would you describe your aesthetic? Describing the aesthetic is tough. I think that composing music for games is about being malleable and fitting in with the vibe of the game, on a stage-by-stage basis. As far as qualities that define my music goes, I like to focus on interesting chord voicings and also syncopation of rhythms. Also, long form melody - I love to evolve melodies over the course of the tune in a way that is not predictable. -What tools do you use to compose, generally as well as for games? For NES music, I am primarily using Famitracker. I have started experimenting with FamiStudio as well. It is ideal to have a guitar at hand so I can quickly run through ideas. But, if I'm not working at home, I just have to rely on my ear and my brain. -Tell me about the development of Anguna Zero’s music, what is your composition process? Is the creative process different compared to when you compose more traditional music? Any time I start a new project, the most important thing for me is if the head of the project has specific musical references they would like me to aim for. I try to take those references to heart but also apply my own style to it. Nathan let me have open license for Anguna, for the most part. I often sit down to the computer without a plan, whether I am writing video game music or traditional music, so the process is pretty similar either way. -Your work on homebrew games spans a wide assortment of gems such as the Haunted Halloween games, Full Quiet, and Shmup Speed. How has your approach to homebrew games evolved over the years? The biggest thing that has changed is my understanding of what is going on under the hood. For Haunted '85, I was clueless. I didn't understand the space restrictions. I didn't understand that a sound engine was even a thing. Now, I am actively thinking about how much space the music is going to take up as I am writing it. The goal for me is to make the most interesting sounding tunes while keeping it very space efficient. A word of advice: If you are reading this and want to compose music for the NES, just assume that you can't use any of the built-in effects of Famitracker. You're better off that way, it will save you a bunch of headaches in the future. Cartridge of Full Quiet -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in your work on Anguna Zero? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? Fortunately, I did not run into any big hurdles while working on Anguna. I think now that I have a pretty solid understanding of Famitone 2, (the favored sound engine of most homebrewers nowadays) I can typically export the audio with minimal errors. The biggest hurdle is often getting past judging my own work. If the music functions in game and sounds good, that is all I can ask for. -How did you first connect with Nathan and what is the working dynamic like as you both work on your respective aspects of the game? Nathan and I met on Twitter a few years ago I do believe. I have been doing a lot of work recently with KHAN Games and Sole Goose Productions, so I think they may have put in a good word for me! Nathan is really easy to work with. He gives excellent feedback. He trusts me to do my thing correctly and vice versa. -Is there another project after Anguna Zero on the horizon? Another dream project that you hope to bring into existence, NES or otherwise? I have a few more secret things that I am working on. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that I can talk about them just yet! My dream is to make more NES and SNES soundtracks hopefully soon. I am open to commissions if anyone needs music! -Have you ever thought of releasing a chiptune album of your music, perhaps even on an NES cart (like Zi, another Thomas within the community)? I just started writing a full chiptune album, specifically for a cartridge, just this week. I have no timeline for release yet, but it will happen! -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? I have been waiting for years to play RIKI's Famicom homebrew, Astro Ninja Man. One is on the way for me, but it won't be here for a while. I am really interested in eventually getting my hands on the online version of Super Tilt Bros. Wi-Fi NES carts, who knew the day would ever come?? Screenshot from Astro Ninja Man -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? Thank you for spending time with me. The NES community has been very welcoming to me and I appreciate everyone a great deal. Anyone can feel free to reach out to talk about music, if you need music for a project, or just want advice about the process. SpriteAttack -Before we dive into Anguna, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a graphic artist? What is the origin story of SpriteAttack? I bought a C64 when I was sixteen. A classmate sold his as he had lost interest in it. At first, it was all about the games but soon I was intrigued by the art and how it was created. I started wondering if some of those games couldn't be made to look better. I did pixel art with a joystick on an old TV screen. These days it just sounds insane but I did enjoy it. The C64 was soon replaced with an Amiga 2000, and the first game designs of my own and contacts to coders in my region. This led to floppy discs filled with pixel-art and finally the first released game. From that point on it was too much fun not to continue making art for computer games. -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? I never really had one or two artists that I tried to follow. I used to watch a wide range of styles and a diverse spectrum of forums – not just gaming related but also design, art, product design, or even fan art. A few artists and artworks would inspire me to try out a different style. I still enjoy the Metal Slug artwork, Legends of Mana and the works of Henk Nieborg. Thor: God of Thunder (Nintendo DS Mockup), by Henk Nieborg -Your art for Anguna: Warriors of Virtue evokes some classic games, imbuing familiar tropes with unique personality. Would you say that your art has any qualities that are quintessentially you? How would you describe your aesthetic? It's hard for me to see 'my style' but a common trait seems to be vivid colours, a tendency to cuteness and cartoon characters. I try to maintain a high level of consistency in a game's art, UI, and feel. The styles may vary from game to game, depending on the system requirements, the game engine, and the tools available, but in the game, it should feel like one from start to finish. -What tools do you use to create? There's the old-fashioned sketchbook and two marker pens – they go where I go. Most of the computer work is now done in Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo. CorelDraw and Inkscape add some additional effects to my tool-set. I work with a gaming PC and two monitors plus a display graphic tablet yet still use the mouse for a lot of the vector art. -Tell me about your creative process? How does something evolve from your imagination to the page/screen? It depends a lot on the medium. My sketches usually 'just happen'. I start somewhere on the page and doodle and fill up the page with the marker. The game art and illustrations usually follow a building process. I start with basic shapes, outlines, and rough colours, adding more and more details as I go. I love to work from simple shapes (circles and rectangles) and add to them as the elements evolve. -I love to ask interviewees who played a role in designing characters, especially the protagonist, about whether there are elements of themselves found in their characters. I believe a game’s protagonist serves not only as the player's point of immersion in the game, informing how we understand the game's world, but also is a reflection of its designer. Was there any specific intention behind the design of Anguna’s protagonist and its other colorful characters? I wish there was. I don't think I am anything like the protagonists in my games. The main character in Anguna is a sword-swinging, arrow shooting knight in bright armor – basically the stereotype of a game of this genre. Most of the choices were based on the clear distinction between the hero and the enemies - red versus blue or green. I definitely got that impression -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing for Anguna as opposed to your other work? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? It's hard to say. Anguna: Warriors of Virtue was developed a long time ago. Pixel-art was the only viable form of game art – the few vector art or 3D games out there were rarities. All the animations were hand placed and tested again and again to make the most of the few 'dots' you had at your disposal. These days there are tools out there that make it a lot easier. Animations are reusable if you use bone-based animation tools like spine, spriter, or dragon bones – just to name a few. Most game engines have their own animation tools built into the framework. Use the tools that are out there and continuously keep an eye on what's new. It could potentially make your work easier, more engaging, or simpler to implement by the coders. Learning and adapting to new tools, workflows and demands is essential if you want to do game art for a long time. - How did you first connect with Nathan for the game and what was the working dynamic like as you both work on your respective aspects of the game? I am sorry but I really can't remember how we connected. It would have been via one of the homebrew forums back in the days. I used to be rather active, commenting and showing my own work, making edits/reworks to posts to explain changes in a visual way. An image says more than a thousand words – and I am better with the art than the words anyway... - Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon, any dream projects? At the moment there is nothing lined up. I had to shift back a few gears due to ongoing health issues and put the focus on my body and having as much fun as possible. I have done some of my dream projects in the past. I worked on a DS/PSP version of 'Impossible Mission' with Ziggurat Interactive. The game was one of my childhood favorites on the C64 along with Summer Games (which we also ported but it sadly never got released). Last year I had the chance to work on a texture pack for Minecraft which was another dream project. Artwork for Impossible Mission in collaboration with Ziggurat Interactive -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? There are way too many...and I have to admit that I am losing track. There simply is not enough time in the day to play all the games I would like to dive into. Sadly I tend to forget about a lot of the games that initially sparked my interest in a post by the time they eventually are released. -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? Thanks! I want to thank all the players out there for playing the games and making all the hard work worthwhile. They are the ones enabling me to do what I love – make game art! Conclusion: Thanks for tuning in to another episode of a series that highlights promising new homebrew games and learns the stories behind them as they cross the finish line. What are your thoughts on Anguna: Scourge of the Goblin King and its talented development team? Which homebrews are you eagerly looking forward to? Perhaps you’ll see it here soon when…A Homebrew Draws Near! Command?
  12. A Homebrew Draws Near! A blog series by @Scrobins Episode 14: Doodle World Introduction: If Twitter is any indication, inspiration is a fickle thing when designing a game. Crafting characters, gameplay, and a story, among any number of other elements can be a challenge when trying to create something new and fun. But sometimes out of the mouths, or in this case markers of babes come forth ideas that make even the most seasoned game developer smack themselves upside the head and exclaim “why didn’t I think of that?!?” For this entry, I’m covering Doodle World: a platformer developed by Nate Peters, inspired by his daughter’s doodles, and topped off with the musical stylings of Takumi Grainger. As of the time of this writing, Kickstarter backers have received their games, the game’s rom is available for download here, and physical cartridges are available here. Additionally, Doodle World is available on the Evercade Indie Heroes Collection 1 multigame cart, alongside other homebrew games (and A Homebrew Draws Near! subjects) as KUBO 3 and Quest Arrest. Development Team: @natepeters (Nate & Araceli Peters): programming & design Takumi Grainger: music Doodle World CIB with crayons for the instruction manual/activity book Game Evolution: Doodle World grew out of its predecessor Doodle Land, an entry in the 2019 NESmaker Byte-Off Competition. Nate first shared this game and any updates to the NESmaker forum on February 6, 2019. For Doodle Land, Nate designed the game around his then 4-year-old daughter’s drawings, channeling a childlike doodle aesthetic to bring Araceli’s art to life. Screenshot from Doodle Land demo On March 6, 2019, Nate started a new thread on the NESmaker forum for Doodle World, sharing updates and responding to feedback as the project grew ever larger on its way to being a fully fleshed out release. On July 23, 2020, Nate started a thread here on VGS to share updates on his game and tease the upcoming Kickstarter. On September 9, 2020, Doodle World launched its crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, meeting its funding goal in less than 12 hours! Backers could choose to pledge money at tiers to receive the game’s rom; a cart-only copy; a CIB with crayons; and a limited edition CIB with a special white cart, signed/numbered LE certificate, and a LE start screen in-game. Offering crayons lodged in the styrofoam block at the bottom of CIB copies was a really cute and clever touch. By the end of the campaign, 317 backers pledged more than $17,000 to project, crossing a stretch goal at which Nate would purchase games and consoles for The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. On January 29, 2021, Nate announced that Kickstarter fulfillment would commence, and on February 3, 2021, Doodle World launched its page on itch.io. More recently on May 7, 2021, Doodle World was released on the Evercade Indie Heroes Collection I multigame cart. Gameplay Overview: Doodle World is a classic side-scrolling platformer in the spirit of Mario and Co. You play as Doodle, tasked with reclaiming the magical crayon responsible for creating your wonderful world from the evil King Eraser and his office supply sycophants. Your quest will lead you through 15 levels spread across 5 worlds. The game has two settings: normal and kids mode, the latter of which grants the player additional lives at the beginning, only eraser enemies (which can be jumped on), no pits, and fewer hits needed to defeat the big eraser bosses. Doodle World’s controls are intuitive: move Doodle with the d-pad, jump with the A button, and hold down the B button to run. As you take in nature (take in notebook?), you’ll find not all office supplies are bad guys. An assortment of crayons can be found throughout levels, and in abundance in bonus rooms, with an extra life to reward you for every 100 you collect. Except for that shade of blue that Katie is ALWAYS HOGGING Shiny crayons on the other hand grant you temporary invincibility, so keep an eye out for their glowy sheen. Hidden in each level is a piece of torn paper that acts as a portal to a bonus room where you’ll find crayons galore, if you have the skill to navigate the entire room. Meanwhile a full notepad is your prize for finishing a level or defeating a boss and gaining the portkey to the next world. Writer’s Review: Doodle World is a fun platformer that proves how even the most seemingly mundane pieces of our everyday lives can be the seeds for an engaging and colorful game, reminding us how far our imagination could take us when we were Araceli’s age. It’s almost too perfect how objects on the desk in my office can serve as a broad array of antagonists. After seeing the way Doodle smiles and waves at the end of each level, I wish my doodles smiled at me or came to life. Er, nevermind. Gameplay is simple, allowing you to appreciate the doodled landscape and adorable enemies (before you ostensibly kill them of course). Don’t be fooled by their cute appearance though, unlike Mario’s adversaries, Doodle’s foes don’t reveal whether they are the type to pace back and forth on a platform or plow straightforward in one direction by their color, challenging your intuition and expectations where you least expect. At least you can tell which ones you shouldn’t jump on (but if you're like me, you have a few pencil points lodged in you because you learned that lesson the hard way). Fortunately, for other enemy info, the instruction manual offers helpful hints and doubles as a coloring/activity book for your kids…or your own inner child. Doodle World’s music is bright and bubbly. It’s hard not to bob your head and hum while playing, though the tunes get appropriately tense for boss fights. In the meantime each world has its own flavor while maintaining that perky vibe that transports me to being a kid getting up early on Saturday mornings to watch my favorite cartoons and play my favorite games with the house practically to myself. Such are Takumi's joyfully hypnotizing melodies. Interviews: For more insights into the game’s development and how a doodle jumped from the page to the video game screen, I chatted with Doodle World’s dev team… natepeters @natepeters -Before we dive into Doodle World, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a homebrewer? What is your origin story? As a game collector/enthusiast, I honestly never gave homebrew or indie retro titles much thought until I started attending PAX South here in San Antonio. Seeing all the awesome developments and tools being created inspired me to look into making something of my own. I met Joe Granato at PAX South 2019, and he introduced me to his tool, NESmaker. I have a background in software and hardware development and, using Joe's NESmaker tool, I thought I would give NES development a try. What really gave me the push was Joe's announcement of the first NESmaker Byte-Off competition at PAX South. I figured I could use the competition as a hard deadline to try and come up with something and see if NES development was right for me. -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? I have always been a huge fan of old-school platformers, so naturally my main influences are Shigeru Miyamoto and Yuji Naka. Those two created some of the most iconic characters and platformers in video games. Today, I really like the stuff that Mega Cat Studios is producing, they are putting out some great retro titles. Shigeru Miyamoto and Yuji Naka -What tools do you use to code? I use NESmaker, Notepad++, and Game Maker Studio 2. NESmaker is a great IDE for asset and script manager for NES development. Notepad++ is great for coding as it is simple and lightweight. I recently picked up Game Maker Studio 2 for some new projects. -You’ve mentioned that Doodle World originated in watching your daughter doodle, tell me more about her ideas and contributions to the game. She is the driving force behind most of the game's design! Anytime I came up with a new idea, area, or character I would run it by her. She came up with the initial design for Doodle and together we both created the game's world. Nate & Araceli Peters -Were/are you a doodler too? I was, these days not so much. I do find myself doodling digitally from time to time trying to come up with new ideas. -Tell me about your creative process for designing and programming the game. What lessons can you share to others who want to learn to make their own games? First and foremost, come up with a solid idea. Get everything down on paper, plot, world design, character design, gameplay ideas, etc. Once you have a good idea laid out start with coming up with the digital art (character design and world/level design). Then comes the programming! One big piece of advice I can share is don't be afraid to ask for help. Game development, especially on old systems, can be very tricky. There are lots of great forums and people out there who are willing to help out and answer questions if you get stuck. There were loads of people who helped me out along the way. -What was the intention behind the design of Doodle World’s protagonist, and do you feel the character reflects you or your daughter in any way? The design came straight from her doodles. Doodle's design is a pixelated recreation of her design. I think Doodle's design really reflects her personality, he is always smiling and is not afraid of going on an adventure! -Do you feel that Doodle World has any qualities that are quintessentially you? How would you describe your aesthetic? I think so. Doodle World is meant to be enjoyed by everyone, it is not too difficult, not too long, and will leave you smiling. I am an easy-going person and tried to add that idea to the game. I wanted everyone to be able to enjoy it, even the youngest of gamers. I would say the best way to describe the aesthetic is crayon and pencil on notepad paper. It took a lot of time to try and get the look just right! -Doodle World began as Doodle Land, an entry in the first NESmaker Byte-Off Competition. Tell us about your work on that version of the game. How has Doodle World evolved from that first demo? Doodle Land was a very crude demo of what Doodle World has evolved into. Doodle Land has a lot of elements that would eventually lead to what Doodle World is today and there were some ideas that ended up in the garbage can. Most of those were design choices, like the colors of the cave level and boss design. As the game evolved a lot of features were added such as "B" button running and the "Super Crayon" invincibility. -How did you first connect with Takumi, and what was your working dynamic like? He reached out to me after playing the Doodle Land demo, which had no music or sound. He was awesome to work with. His sound and music design is awesome and he captured the essence of Doodle World perfectly. I am hoping to continue to work with him on many future projects. Doodle World would not be where it is today without him. People do not realize how much sound and music design really make a game stand out. -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing Doodle World? The biggest challenge was the art design! Before Doodle World I had never done any pixel art before. So trying to learn how to create art assets and also keep them within the crayon aesthetic was difficult. A lot of the assets in Doodle World went though a ton of revisions to try and meet my design requirements. -There has been a lot of support and enthusiasm for Doodle World, having blown through its initial funding goal on Kickstarter. How does it feel to see so many people excited for your game? It is extremely humbling! I never thought a little demo created for a competition would garner so much support and such a big following! -A really special aspect of your Kickstarter was a stretch goal (which you exceeded) where you would purchase games and consoles for The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. What is your connection to such an important institution that serves children? I was always taught that if you are given, you should give back. I chose our local Children's Hospital because the game was co-designed by a child and the theme of the game really appeals to children. Araceli really wanted to be able to help other children as well. I have Ankylosing Spondylitis and Degenerative Disc Disease and have had to spend a lot of time in hospitals, and even had to have back surgery during Doodle World's development, so I know what it means to be able to have something like video games to help distract you from the environment and situation that being hospitalized can create. -Do you plan on producing any additional carts or CIBs since fulfilling orders from your Kickstarter backers? Definitely! I have already had another run of carts produced and they can be purchased at https://doodleworldgame.com/shop/ -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon, NES or otherwise? Any dream projects? Collaborations? I am currently working on another NES game in the "Doodle-verse". This one will be completely different from Doodle World, a co-op puzzler! My dream would be getting Doodle World released on the Switch, either in its current form or as an enhanced "deluxe" release. I currently do not have any collaborations lined up, but am always open to working with other devs! -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? Tapeworm by LowTek games is going to be a lot of fun and I am looking forward to the release! Gameplay gif from Tapeworm Disco Puzzle by LowTek Games -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? I just want to say thank you for the interview and thank you to everyone out there who supported us and helped make our dream come true! Takumi Grainger @TakuikaNinja -Before we dive into Doodle World, I'd love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to be a musician? What led you to compose music for homebrew games? What is the origin story of TakuikaNinja? I'm a half-cast between New Zealand and Japan. I grew up with Nintendo consoles (DSi onwards) since my family went on vacations to Japan quite often during my primary school years. My interest in chiptune (and by extension composing) came from a few things. One of them was Kitsune^2's "Rock My Emotions", which I had stumbled upon after seeing a few YTPMVs of it on YouTube. Another factor would be my liking towards retro games, especially since the Nintendo eShop regularly showcased retro gaming content such as Game Center CX, the Virtual Console releases, and the NES Remix games. Artwork of Kitsune2 I didn't really start composing until 2019, which was when I started learning music at high school. Quite a few of my original compositions are what I made for the assessments I had to do as part of the course. Time constraints and procrastination typically resulted in me having to use FamiTracker to make them. I'm still fond of those early tunes, so much so that I've arranged them a few times. To be completely honest, the sole reason I decided to compose for homebrew games was because I wanted to win the "Best Music" award at the 2019 NESmaker Byte-Off. (Selfish, I know) I had known about NESmaker well before that, but it wasn't until that competition that I realized that I could contribute to a game so easily. During the competition, I made the music for "Fight of the Phoenix", "XenoCreeps", and you guessed it, "Doodle World". (It was called "Doodle Land" back then, though) The satisfaction of knowing I've contributed was enough to offset the disappointment of not winning any awards, and I've continued making game music since. -What is the significance of your username? "Taku" is my real-life nickname, "ika" is the Japanese word for squid (since I love Splatoon), and "Ninja" represents my Japanese side. -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? There are too many influences to list here, to be honest. European composers make up the majority of my influences (Neil Baldwin, Follin bros, Maniacs of Noise, Gavin Raeburn, Alberto J. Gonzalez, etc). In terms of works I'm watching closely, those would be other homebrew game soundtracks (mainly CutterCross and Tuï's works) and songs from members of the Chiptune Café, which a discord server I'm active in. Partial screenshot of The Prying Eye by CutterCross -What tools do you use to compose, generally as well as for games? I mainly use FamiTracker, which is a piece of tracker software for making NES/Famicom music. I do change things up and use trackers for different systems from time to time, though. -Do you feel that your music has any qualities that are quintessentially you? How would you describe your aesthetic? I think I'm still in what I call the "style discovery" phase. I try to change up the sound design and music styles between songs so I can figure out what works and what doesn't. -Tell me about the development of Doodle World’s music, what is your composition process? For Doodle World, I was tasked with making the tunes "somewhat childish/whimsical". My first thought was to recreate some common childhood instruments (Flute/Recorder, Xylophone and Trumpet) for the lead. To keep the tunes simple, I did the sound design early on and made the instrument set quite small so I could focus on creating catchy songs. The earlier stages of the game have simpler songs, while the later stages have more complex songs to spice things up. Admittedly I went wild on the boss and final boss themes. -Do you feel your approach to chiptune composition has changed over time? In terms of sound design, not much. I tend to use a small set of instruments so I'm not overwhelmed by the options available. I've definitely improved my composition skills, though. Learning basic music theory has helped me understand what good options are available when it comes to chord progressions. -In your opinion, what is essential to make a chiptune song memorable? I think that a catchy melody, a groovy bassline, a nice chord progression, and a solid beat is essential for a song to be memorable. If those are good enough, the sound design doesn't have to be perfect (though I'd recommend making sure the mixing is decent). -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in your work on Doodle World? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? Most of it was smooth sailing, though I do remember struggling to fit the invincibility theme within the actual invincibility period Nate had set aside for it. Communication was key to mitigating that problem. -What was the working dynamic like as you worked with Nate on the game? Nate requested the songs and sound effects, and I composed them. Later on I joined the playtesting team to find bugs before the game was announced on Kickstarter. I have a massive respect for Nate since he was working so hard on the game even though he was recovering from a back surgery. -You posted on the NESmaker forum that you have several other soundtrack commissions in progress. Can you tell us about any of them? What other projects do you have on the horizon after Doodle World? Another dream project that you hope to bring into existence, NES or otherwise? The games listed in the forum post are commissions which I've finished. I'll list a few details about each one: Fight Of The Phoenix - Byte-off 2019 entry by Lother. I made the full soundtrack. XenoCreeps - byte-off 2019 entry by Natendo. I composed the main theme. Force Bot - A work-in-progress homebrew game by Erockbrox. I composed the title theme, ending theme, and a few in-game tunes. A second composer, Estlib, is working on a few more songs. Pinky! - A NESmaker game by axbakk. I made the full soundtrack along with a the tunes for the Xmas Edition. Tiny Robbers - A NESmaker game by justadude. I composed the full soundtrack. One that I haven't mentioned (but since added to the post): Paws N' Play - Byte-Off 2020 game by Lother. I made the whole soundtrack. There are a few more game soundtracks in the works, but I can't talk about them just yet. Screenshot of Xeno Creeps by Natendo -Have you ever considered compiling your chiptune music and releasing it on cartridge albums like Zi with Bleep Bop Records? I've had thoughts about making an original album for the past few months, but I hadn't thought about releasing them on cartridges. -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? Force Bot, The Prying Eye, and Witch n' Wiz look exciting. I'm looking forward to playing them on original hardware. -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? Thanks for the opportunity! More game soundtracks are on the way. Uploads will be on YouTube and updates will be on Twitter. Searching my username on either of them should be enough to find me. Conclusion: Thanks for tuning in to this latest episode of the series that looks behind the game to learn about the doodles that started it all. What are your thoughts on Doodle World and its talented development team? Do you have any doodles worthy of becoming the next big homebrew character? What homebrews are you eagerly looking forward to? Perhaps you’ll see it here soon when…A Homebrew Draws Near! Command?
  13. Böbl homebrew working on NES cartridge very cool on original hardware. Morphcat Games
  14. A Homebrew Draws Near! A blog series by @Scrobins Episode 13: What Remains Introduction: Video games can aspire to be many things. They can be a playful escape from the world, and they can be a new lens for seeing the world and how we exist within it. Not many games use their medium to weigh in on substantive political discourse, but today’s game, with its themes of health & environmental policy, truth & disinformation, and archival institutions and the protection of knowledge, reflects the maturity and imagination of its developers, and the pervasiveness of the political in modern society. For this entry, I’m covering What Remains: a visual novel adventure game developed by Iodine Dynamics. With Earth Day having recently passed, What Remains seemed a perfect fit to reflect on the significance of the day, given the game’s themes of protecting public health and conserving the environment. As of the time of this writing, the rom is available for purchase here, and a limited run of 80 CIBs has been reserved, with a recent update as of April 19, 2021 that Iodine Dynamics will be partnering with perennial production savior Broke Studio to produce carts. Initial cart/box design, or corporate leak? Development Team: Arnaud Guillon: design (maps, sprites, and mazes) Dustin Long: programming Aymeric Mansoux: hardware, music, and writing Chun Lee: music Marloes de Valk: design (cutscenes), writing, and research Image from What Remains’ first tweet Game Evolution: What Remains began teasing its existence through its dedicated Twitter account, which posted its first tweet on August 25, 2016. Updates flowed on followers’ feeds, sharing progress on aspects such as sprite development and circuit board work. The end was in sight when a May 15, 2017 tweet noted the team had started “Day 1” of a sprint to the finish line. In an August 30, 2018 tweet, the dev team announced the release of the game, with an invitation to a release party in Rotterdam on September 27. Soon after, pre-orders for a limited physical release of 80 CIBs opened on September 5, 2018. As gamers played the released game, the dev team continued to improve it, fixing bugs and sharing updates. On May 24, 2019, the final rom was released. Given the significance of the themes permeating What Remains’ gameplay, it is no surprise that What Remains found places of prominence within multiple exhibitions, including the New Archive Interpretations exhibition at the Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam in September 2017, the UN/GREEN exhibition at the Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga in July 2019, the ZKM│Center for Art and Media in Karlsruche starting in February 2020, and the Sonic game space II exhibition at Visningsrommet USF in Berge through April and May 2021. What Remains at the ZKM│Center for Art and Media. Finally an art exhibit I can touch! Gameplay Overview: What Remains is a visual novel adventure game. You play as Jenny, your typical skateboarding gamer, living her best life in Sunny Peaks circa 1986. On the way home from an afternoon on the halfpipe, Jenny observes a car chase and the driver of the front car tossing something out the window: an NES cartridge! Cart only, very good condition, some scuffing resulting from high-speed car chase Bringing it to your friend Michael, together you learn this isn’t the latest game, but a sophisticated tool for leaking the secrets of shady corporate conglomerate DNY Corp. It’s up to you to open your community’s eyes to the misinformation they’re being fed by DNY Corp.’s puppets. Between the 80s graphics, green coloring, and lollipop eyes, you know he’s bad news…until he pulls an Elphaba and gets a redemptive book/broadway musical What Remains’ controls are simple: move around town using the D-pad, talk to people and open doors with the A button, and blow the whistle (when you learn an important secret) with the B button. Additionally, when playing the mysterious NES cartridge, you are treated to a mini game that hacks DNY Corp. with a mechanism that bears a striking resemblance to Arkanoid. Is this what showed up on the screen for those kids in Hackers? Sunny Peaks is a bustling community, with more neighborhoods available to you as the story progresses. And the streets are filled with people that are fun to talk to. Each person has 2-3 different things to say in each level, whether it’s relevant to the plot or a silly non sequitur. Each level revolves around a new morsel of information gleaned from the cartridge and finding a way to counter DNY Corp.’s misdeeds. How you play the game from one level to the next is largely consistent, but includes some variances to keep things fresh, whether that’s trying to talk to as many people as possible, or carefully avoiding certain others… Stranger danger! Writer’s Review: What Remains provides a fun adventure, bolstered by themes which render the story as relevant today as it would be in its actual setting. One might find it easy to dismiss some of the subject matter as dated, with debate over the dangers of cigarette smoking and pollution long settled; and one might be cynical and tired over the meaning of truth when today’s political discourse has become saturated with discussion of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, but standing on the bridge between them may be precisely where this game becomes timeless with a resonance that rises above the specific subject matter we may be fighting over then or now. Here is a game to remind you of the adage that "all politics is local" and that even the most daunting challenges can be overcome when individuals recognize their own agency and make the effort to be the catalyst for change. The straightforward gameplay allows the player to become more immersed in the story, running around Sunny Peaks to spread truth and enlist allies. As Jenny you meet a wide array of helpful, hostile, and hilariously benign characters, from talking pigeons to step aerobics enthusiasts. Personally I think it’s making a comeback. Talking to them all is an entertaining aside, even when it doesn’t advance the plot, but then again some of the most amusing moments of my favorite RPGs were the jokes found in talking to NPCs (such as the couple in Dragon Warrior’s Rimuldar who never seem to find each other for their date). Interspersed among your efforts to fight corporate megalomania are cutscenes that add drama to keep you tethered to the game for just one more level (including one that might fool the impatient and easily frustrated), and the brief Arkanoid-like needed to hack the next tidbit of industrial espionage, which gets a little more difficult with each level. Put together, What Remains is an enjoyable adventure that can be beaten in a single, brief sitting because it believes its challenge lies not in difficult gameplay but recalibrating how you digest information and weigh the sources from which you obtain it when you go back out into the real world. The game’s graphical art is ornate and colorful. The streets of Sunny Peaks are not an ongoing pattern of urban tiles, but a labyrinthine environment with character of its own across the streets and within each shop. The detail is incredible from the light reflecting off windowpanes to the readable titles on the arcade cabinets. Scattered throughout the city are the dozens of people you can talk to. Unlike most games where you can explore and chat up the locals, these NPCs are all unique sprites, an impressive effort given their number. On top of the overworld art, the cutscenes provide a comic book feel to the story that keeps you inside the action. The diner before & after the smoking ban Meanwhile the game’s music elevates gameplay by bolstering the tone of each level. Whether it’s the “urgent” theme to alert you to a new development, or the nighttime music that conveys a sleepy, creeping mystery as you skulk from block to block, each track reinforces the moods that carry you from chapter to chapter in this visual novel. Each chiptune begins simply enough, with a distinct vibe that sets the emotional tone to keep you grounded in the story, but if you take your time and wait for the tracks to really get going, you can enjoy them for the elaborate songs they are. And yet What Remains also effectively uses silence to bring tension to a rolling boil, giving players a sense of dread for what lurkis just around the corner. But if there is a classic game that I can point to that in my opinion bears some similarity to the overall feel of this soundtrack, it would be StarTropics with its balance of thrilling and entertaining, tense but bubbly. Both games even have volcanoes! Interviews: Well, what remains now but to talk to the development team? Yuk yuk yuk…(crickets)…anyhoo…for this interview, the development team opted to answer my questions together, creating a great conversational feel to their responses, so let’s see what additional insights Iodine Dynamics can add to supplement our experience of the game. Iodine Dynamics https://iodinedynamics.com/ Twitter @remwhat DL = Dustin Long https://github.com/dustmop Twitter: @dustmop AG = Arnaud Guillon MdV = Marloes de Valk https://bleu255.com/~marloes Mastodon: @l03s@post.lurk.org Twitter: @l03s AM = Aymeric Mansoux https://bleu255.com/~aymeric Mastodon: @320x200@post.lurk.org Twitter: @320x200 CL = Chun Lee Before we dive into What Remains, I would love to talk about you and your various backgrounds. What first inspired each of you to become homebrew game developers? What are your origin stories? DL: Having always been interested in games and gamedev, I was really pulled into homebrew by witnessing the creativity in the chiptune scene, particularly by visual artists at shows in the New York area. A lot of them were using custom software on old consoles like the NES / Famicom and Sega Genesis / Mega Drive, which inspired me to learn how exactly that worked. AG: I've been a gamer for a very long time and I've always had the desire to participate in the making of a game. When Aymeric and Marloes asked me to join the project, it was just the right opportunity. MdV: I stumbled into it through a collab with Aymeric and Dave on a game called Naked on Pluto in 2011, and discovered I love writing dialogue and content for games. AM: Next to what Marloes said already, Chun, Marloes and myself were also part of an artist collective active in the 2000s, called GOTO10, working on experimental net/software art and music performance with Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS). Throughout the years we were increasingly drawn to using so-called obsolete computers and consoles to mess around with. For me it was also a way to reconnect with past interests in computer/platform centric subcultures and alternative modes of publishing/distribution like the demoscene. Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? DL: Aside from chiptune, I'm a big fan of many classic to modern games. I probably should give special thanks to Battle Kid, which was the first homebrew game that really caught my attention and pushed me to start making my own. There are too many great developers that are out there right now to mention them all, but I'm especially impressed by the work coming out of groups like Mega Cat Studios, Broke Studio, and Morphcat Games. AM: For the DIY/homebrew scene in particular, I'm always inspired to learn about projects that depart from nostalgia and try to build upon, expand, subvert existing computer/video tech that have lost their original commercial relevance. People/groups that inspire me in this context are Viznut's permacomputing principles, Little Scale's hardware hacking, the whole GB chiptune community, and communities like scanlines.xyz. For the more political motivations/influences, the political theorist Chantal Mouffe is a big inspiration for me. For the art aspect, mostly artists and writers from the field of software art, culture jamming, and tactical media to some extent. MdV: I'm going to throw in some interactive fiction. I loved You Are Jeff Bezos, by Kris Ligman and Queers in Love at the End of the World by Anna Entropy. Super inspiring how much you can do with so little: text and a counter for time or money. How would you describe your design aesthetic, and what to you are hallmarks of a game designed by you? MdV: The combination of quite disturbing topics with a good dose of humour, silliness mixed with critical observations and totally absurd dialogues. No caption I write could improve on this perfection (chef’s kiss) AG: For the in-game graphic part, I would describe the graphic style as "do as you can" ^^ I really started pixel art on this game, discovering in the process the specific constraints of the NES. It was initially very frustrating because all my initial graphic intentions had to be abandoned. Of course I knew these constraints would be very important, but I was far from it. So from my point of view, in-game visuals reflect more my learning than a clear and assumed direction from the beginning to the end. If I could work on a game again today, with the experience I gained on What Remains, I would approach it very differently. Before I even started working on the game, my fear was mostly about the top view of the game because I had the feeling that it would be more complex to get something visually appealing. Such a view needs a minimum scale to work and therefore a greater diversity of scenery elements in the image (to be successful in my opinion). Something sounding even more complex to achieve on a platform like the NES. I had in mind the old RPGs (Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest...) that I found particularly "stark" with differences in scale between characters and scenery that I didn't like at all, and scenery looking like maps. One of the few games that did the job very well in my opinion on NES (graphically) was TMNT, and it was my main inspiration for the scenery and the scale represented. For characters, I wanted to avoid SD or outlined designs. So they are very thin, and I was a little afraid that they were not visible enough in the picture. Generally speaking, I didn't want to imitate old games, even if quite often, after a few unsuccessful attempts, you find yourself applying proven recipes. Screenshot from TMNT MdV: For the cutscenes and the cartridge PETSCII-style graphics I can only echo Arnaud's words. It was a (really fun) learning process. The constraints on resolution and palette felt brutal at first but triggered a lot of creativity as well. DL: I enjoy when games develop a central theme, either narrative or mechanical, then perform acts that twist or subvert it in clever and interesting ways. I feel like What Remains has quite a bit of that, which is especially fun! AM: I also like games with a twist, with a little something that manipulates the player's expectation! Design wise, for What Remains specifically we also tried to make sure the overall design was not flat and uniform. By flat and uniform I mean that we worked very hard to make sure there was diversity in the visual language for each part of the game (cutscenes, top down views, non-interactive animations, faux-PETSCII interface for the "in-game game" sequences, etc.), and same for the music (making sure the soundtrack is there to set the mood and that sometimes less is more, whether it means that the composition needs to be more subtle, or that a location or scene simply works best with no music at all). This required a constant attention to detail and some extra work to make sure the overall experience remains fluid (an example would be how in some places the background music does not restart when you change location, but actually resumes from the last measure before you left its location). What tools do you use to code and create the overall game as well as its music and art? DL: The game software was created using a language called "co2", a lispy language that was started by Dave Griffiths, which I picked up and developed further. It has some nice features that help with writing larger homebrew projects, and the source is available on github for the curious. It's not yet documented well enough to be easy to pick up use, which is something I'd love to fix in the future. Dave Griffiths MdV: For the cut scenes I used Gimp, for the secret cartridge PETSCII-style graphics I used NES Screen Tool. AG: YYCHR for sprites and tiles design, NES st for level design. CL: for music, we used FamiTracker to make all the compositions. By breaking down the game into sections, we were able to make the necessary arrangements, as well as working out some of the main themes that may be heard throughout the game. AM: Let's not forget Dustin's makechr! This helped so much when working on the cutscenes. And maybe a nice anecdote, it is through this tool that we first met, Dustin gives more details in the next question MdV: Yes!!! makechr saved my life multiple times How did you first connect with each other as the team came together? AG: I’ve known Aymeric for more than 20 years (and then Marloes :). We were students at the same school. I met Dustin and Chun on this project. DL: Aymeric and Marloes contacted me asking about NES graphics, which I believe was shortly after I had released The Wit.nes (a demake of Thekla's 2016 game "The Witness"). After chatting for a bit about what they had been working on, I agreed that working on What Remains sounded especially exciting, and the rest is history. Screenshot from The Wit.NES AM: Ten years ago, I had been working a lot with Chun making and teaching live electronic, experimental music with a software called Pure Data. Since then whenever one of us is busy with a sound or music project we try to collaborate on that. So I told him about the project, and the rest is history. MdV: I knew Arnaud, Chun and Aymeric already, and met Dustin for this project. We organized a week when we'd all be together in The Netherlands to brainstorm, start the project and get to know each other (and the local cats). The rest of the project we collaborated remotely. But the history of the game goes back a little longer. It was Aymeric and Arnaud that started dreaming of making a game all the way back in art school. The first prototype of the game was made together with Dave Griffiths, who we worked with on Naked on Pluto. This was back in 2014 when we were commissioned by Annet Dekker to make a demo for Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam. Unfortunately Dave was unable to continue working on the project, and that's when we asked if Dustin would be interested. The knowledge and experience (and cats) he brought to the project were invaluable! What was the working dynamic like in your collaboration? MdV: It was so nice to work in this team, it was a pity we couldn't meet IRL more often though. We had quite a good workflow and ways to coordinate through a self-hosted wiki, bugtracker, git repository and XMPP chat. AG: We all have a job that we were doing at the same time, which logically led to more or less pronounced phases of involvement. But the project has never had a major downtime in memory. We had a whole pipeline set up so that everyone knew what they had to do, what elements were ready, what needed to be reviewed... it worked pretty well. It should also be noted that we benefited greatly from Dustin's experience on this project. DL: It was a great team for making What Remains! Everyone was able to bring something unique to the project, and with everyone's individual perspectives and ideas we were able to make something that I feel is really quite special. AM: It was just great. The discussions were super generative, everyone was committed and dedicated. I hope we can find a framework one day to work together again. Everything clicked. At the heart of What Remains’ story are the efforts of Jenny and Michael to make a difference in health and environmental issues plaguing their community and the world writ large. What inspired you to make this game and focus on these themes? MdV: There were two parallel tracks happening back then. Aymeric and Arnaud were thinking about making a NES game together, and I was researching the origins of today's climate change disinformation campaigns and ended up with a lot of links to the campaigns of the tobacco industry in the 80s. These two tracks merged beautifully once we started brainstorming for the game. The plot is heavily inspired by the characters and events that surfaced during my research. AM: I think for all of us this led to this great balance between doing something very indulging and exciting to hack on, yet not gratuitous at all. It captured our excitement and joy to make something playful, technically exciting to produce, all at the service of telling a story about issues that we all deeply care about, using a medium and format that resonate with our concerns. What Remains takes place in 1986. Beyond the nostalgia factor, do you find looking to the past offers a meaningful resource to advance conversations about the future, or is the look backward more to highlight our lack of progress? MdV: Both, what we had in the back of our minds was this Chinese proverb: "What's the best time to plant a tree? 30 years ago. What is the second-best time? Now." It's no use crying over spilt milk, best take action now, so that we do not have any regrets in 30 years’ time. We can look back and learn from the roots of the problems we are now facing. People are being distracted with disinformation and clever PR tricks from the oil industry (and other industries for sure), many of which are featured in the game and were first tried and tested by the tobacco industry in the 70s and 80s. The strategy of the game is to "inoculate" people against fake news, to let players experience disinformation campaigns so that they become more recognizable. This approach was inspired by research at the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Laboratory (Jon Roozenbeek and Sander van der Linden), who have tested if so-called 'pre-bunking' helps people resist disinformation and fake news with positive results. Jon Roozenbeek (left) & Sander Van Der Linden (right) For additional reading of their academic work, see Inoculating the Public against Misinformation about Climate Change & Good News about Bad News: Gamified Inoculation Boosts Confidence and Cognitive Immunity Against Fake News DL: The context of the past informs our understanding of the present, and hopefully teaches us how to approach the challenges we face now. Especially at a time like this, where the world's future is so uncertain, and in a large part due to the internet's ability to research history, there's a lot of interest in connecting what has come before to help comprehend how we got here. Your interview with Annet Dekker is a fun read: a sort of choose your own adventure interview covering environmental issues, archival institutions, and access to information, among other issues, with readers getting insight into themselves based on which answers they selected. Have you found that people who read that interview fall into a particular category? What next steps do you recommend to people when they learn what kind of archivist they are? MdV: Hmm... we haven't reviewed experiences of readers I must admit. The multiple choice was more a way to discuss different aspects of our thinking on the topics of the questions by Annet. We'd recommend people to be content with whatever type of archivist they are. All archivists are committed to long-term thinking, which is what is needed to limit the damages done by <whatever flavor> of capitalism. Annet Dekker The Iodine Dynamics website features the essay “How to Escape Reality in 10 Simple Steps”, originally published in 2017. The past few years have certainly brought this issue of everyone trying to manage their own narrative into higher profile between “fake news” and “alternative facts” overwhelming substantive policy discussion. How does this essay inform What Remains? MdV: The essay describes 10 strategies used by the tobacco and oil industry to delay regulations aimed at curbing the harmful effects of those industries. We used a few, still used today, in the game. The essay draws parallels between disinformation campaigns from the 80s to those we can witness today, such as the overarching strategy: emphasizing scientific uncertainty. "With the idea of doubt in place, both public and government start to assess the costs, financial or personal, of taking action in a different light. Why take costly measures now, when there is still no conclusive evidence?" This works, we are still hearing so-called experts talk about the costs, economic costs and the cost of personal freedom to drive an SUV and fly all over the planet, combined with tiny seeds of doubt about the severity of the problem and if we puny humans can even influence the climate that has been changing throughout the existence of Earth. We can, and we are, in a speedy 100 years instead of thousands of years. Do you have any new thoughts on the essay’s arguments in the years since it was published? MdV: I think the arguments are still very relevant. With the urgency of action getting clearer every hurricane, flood, forest fire and drought, governments are still taking microscopic and sometimes simply symbolic steps. There are very well funded lobby groups and think tanks spreading propaganda and disinformation through a network of alternative media, with talking points also leaking into mainstream media, spreading doubt about the severity of the climate crisis and the economic costs of attempts to mitigate it. If all else fails, xenophobia and Islamophobia are incredibly successful distractions fueling white supremacy and hate. My interactive fiction Villains and Heroes deals with these issues. Currently the pandemic provides all the distraction needed to grind action to a halt, with ever wilder conspiracy theories thriving. Who has time to care about a transition to a world running on renewable energy, to fight for degrowth, when theories about 5G spreading coronavirus, Bill Gates lacing vaccines with a microchip and the world being run by a sect of satanic pedophiles, are gaining widespread support? The onesie makes me feel safe and happy, but the font tells me I should be frightened. Ever since my first episode, M-Tee planted this idea in my mind that a game’s protagonist, who serves as both the player's point of immersion in the game as well as a reflection of its designer. What was the intention behind Jenny and Michael’s design, and are there elements of yourself that you see in them? AG: They wear lycra clothes! DL: For me at least, they're both kids having a good time playing games and bonding over them. Definitely something I can identify with! AM: Hard to go in-depth without giving spoilers, but let's just say that for me, Jenny and Michael represent the bitter-sweetness of activism. In that sense the game ending can be interpreted in different ways. And I think that this ambivalence is at the heart of the paralysis, lethargy, apathy we're often facing when it comes to responding to the many systemic societal and environmental issues we're confronted with today, and that may be linked to the increasing appeal of accelerationist ideologies, left or right, that are seen as a magical fast-forward that would allow us to escape problems we failed to solve as a society, so far. And yes, lycra too! Lycra: TNG What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing What Remains? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? DL: We originally had plans for more content in the mid-game, that was cut due to concerns about development time, but I think the game we ended up with is better for it! It tells the story it wants to tell with exactly the right amount of time that it needs. AM: Another thing we're taking away is that shipping hardware is a whole different story than shipping a ROM file! We have completely underestimated this. One of the important aspects of the project was that we would not use new parts. We wanted to recycle existing abandoned carts to demonstrate the potential of this approach and give a better purpose to many unpopular or overproduced cartridges rather than eventually becoming e-waste. This led to two issues. First is that with this approach we ended up bumping into bugs and compatibility issues that were never documented and unknown so far (namely how mapper chips, from the same type/model, but from different manufacturers, behave differently). Those are the kind of things that are hard to investigate and are slow to debug. Second, and this is unrelated to the fact we're recycling parts: logistics, logistics, logistics. We did not factor in properly the time for this. As it turns out, packaging, management of bills of materials, shipping, etc., takes an awful amount of time, even for a such a small scale as ours. We thought we could do that on the side. Not at all. Lesson learned. The good thing though is that early on we knew a delay would occur (even though we did not think it would be that much), so we decided to not ask for any money, we just opened a reservation list, to avoid the usual situation where you advance money and may never get anything in return, or maybe only your grandchildren may get something. Another thing we learned, and we were partly surprised about, was the strong split between those who totally understood the cart recycling concept and saw that as a natural extension of working on old computer tech outside of consumerist concerns with a strong position on environmental issues, and those who somehow struggled to see this effort as legitimate, or the right way to publish a new title, because it was not made of completely new parts, as if this was not worth engaging with as a result, somehow. We're still puzzling on that There has been a lot of support and enthusiasm for What Remains on social media. How does it feel to see so many people excited about the game? MdV: That means a lot to us! The whole team put a lot of effort into the game, next to day jobs and throughout different time zones, spread over 4 countries. It is so rewarding to hear positive responses! DL: It's great to hear folks' feedback and witness their excitement! It makes all the hard work that went into it feel that much more rewarding. AM: Amazing. I can say without a doubt that this has been the most rewarding project I've been working on so far, precisely because of all the encounters, chats, discussions, IRL or online, this has created. Some of the continuing enthusiasm comes from people hoping to purchase a physical copy. Do you have any updates on the cartridge release? AM: The current pandemic has made our terrible handling of logistics even worse, and we really had to put everything on hold for a while. The good news is that we're going to get help from Broke Studio to produce it all, and that we're all motivated to make sure 2021 is the year where these cartridges are finally out I’m starting to think that yellow part might be a halo for this saint of a company. Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon, NES or otherwise? Any dream projects? AG: I would like to work on a shoot'em up !!! DL: Recently, I've been heavily involved with a group in NYC called Death by Audio Arcade (see https://www.deathbyaudioarcade.com/). We make new arcade cabinets of locally developed games, and have lots of exciting stuff coming up in the near future! Now THAT is how you logo AM: I'm enjoying working on LURK quite a lot recently. This is a small collective of sysadmins/artists/hackers interested in promoting alternative network infrastructures for groups and individuals active in the field of art and culture production. We offer email discussion lists, real-time chats, streaming services, and a federated social media platform, as a means to move contemporary discussions and production of net and computational culture outside of surveillance capitalism (see https://lurk.org). Chun and I are also slowly working on a small music software for the Game Boy, and like Arnaud, working on a shmup *with a twist* would be a cool thing to do! Maybe we can convince the others to make that a new Iodine Dynamics game MdV: I'm continuing my quest in text-based games and I'm looking into illustrating with ANSI art but haven't started anything new since Villains and Heroes. If the shmup requires any creative onomatopoeia or dramatic cutscenes AND has a mega twist, I'd be happy to help Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? DL: Dullahan Software has some projects coming in the future that I'm really looking forward to! AM: Not all game related but, curious to see what will come up from Broke Studio + Sylvain Gadrat prototyping of networked games for the NES. Impressed by the sound and graphics effort put into the ZPF shmup on the Mega Drive. Wondering if the Hologon demo from TEK on Amiga is the beginning of new disk swapping and computer assisted correspondence art revival. Amazed by standalone devices like the MegaGRRL. Eager to try the LSDJ inspired M8 from Trash 80. Excited to see all the recent efforts to update GBDK. Screenshot from ZPF I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? MdV: We will do the physical release, we promiiiiiiiiiiise!!!!! :))) Conclusion: Thanks for tuning in to another episode of the series that takes deep dives into promising homebrew games coming across the finish line. What are your thoughts on What Remains and the folks at Iodine Dynamics? What are your thoughts about its themes on conservation, public health, truth, and protection of information? What homebrews are you eagerly looking forward to? Perhaps you’ll see it here soon when…A Homebrew Draws Near! Command?
  15. When I first discovered Nintendoage several years ago, it was when I was first discovering homebrew and trying to learn just what was out there that was worth playing. As VGS develops and we have exhaustive lists of what is available or in-development as well as individual threads to promote new works, let’s have a conversation here about your recommendations of which homebrew games are good. What should a newcomer interested in getting their feet wet look for?
  16. We are pleased to announce that IN ONE HOUR FROM NOW(!) we will be offering 50 copies of Haradius Zero by Impact Soft for the NES in the official VGS Store!!! The game is on the store now, and stock will be added at 6pm EST today. Our own @neodolphino is handling this release, bringing the game to you all the way from Japan! It's important to note that he has himself worked closely with the original developer to bring this game to us on NES! Proceeds from the sale will be going to the dev, with a small kickback to VGS's "keep the site running" coffers. This will be a phased release, with 50 available today, and 50 more being added tomorrow (and more after that, TBD). You can see some gameplay in this random youtube video I found just now:
  17. A Homebrew Draws Near! A blog series by @Scrobins Episode 12: Yeah Yeah Beebiss II aka “Riggs Project” Introduction: Homebrew has always been a fairly niche community, with word of mouth serving a critical role in spreading news and building hype for the latest games. But part of what makes homebrew games such a fascinating phenomenon is the juxtaposition of cartridges developed to play on hardware from the 80s with a world in which people can talk about these games in a video that will be viewed by thousands online. One of homebrew’s most prominent champions on YouTube is John Riggs, whose videos share gameplay, reviews, and news about fun homebrews, in addition to licensed era games, limited edition cereals, and other gaming or nostalgia-related gear, often alongside his equally effervescent kids. John is also known for his playful hacks which combine classic games with meme culture. Today I’m talking about John because he’s stepping into new territory with a project teased as early as February 7, 2021. For this entry, I’m offering an early glimpse into the upcoming NES arcade platformer Yeah Yeah Beebiss II, previously codenamed Riggs Project. As of the time of this writing, the game’s development is nearing completion and will be available for purchase soon in its default state as well as with customizable characters! For that reason, this will be a mini post, focusing on the interviews with its creators rather than its evolution and gameplay. Development Team: @John Riggs: graphic, color & text editing Mega Cat Studios: coding Chips ‘N Cellos (Chris, Steve & Jess): music Screenshot from Yeah Yeah Beebiss II Interviews: For the real scoop, I interviewed development team members John and the folks at Chips ‘N Cellos, though I’m saving Mega Cat Studios for another post. John Riggs @johnblueriggs -I need to be a lame fan for a second, cuz I got John Riggs here! How’re ya feeling? Haha, I’m good. Funny with the ‘How’re ya feeling?’, it’s how I used to greet customers when I worked at Rite-Aid back in 1997, then at Video Update in 1998 and onto being on the air on various radio stations starting in 2001. It’s a crutch I just carried over. -Before we dive into your new game, which you’ve teased as the “Riggs Project”, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a collector, a YouTube personality, a game hacker, and now a homebrewer? What is the origin story of John Riggs? I’ve been passionate about video games as long as I can remember, growing up with Atari 2600 to today. The NES was my favorite (and still is) but when I saw SNES and even onto N64 being released that’s when I noticed I don’t see NES games on shelves much at all so thought if they’re all going away, I don’t want to be in a place where I might never see them so I started to buy what I would want to play later. I don’t really consider myself a collector, but happen to have a collection. I got into YouTube because of peer pressure from a good friend of mine from high school. He was the first one I knew who canceled his cable subscription because he watched his favorite YouTube channels. He kept bugging me to start my own channel but I wasn’t into YouTube like that as I wouldn’t know where to begin. It wasn’t until I met Metal Jesus and he invited me on his channel where I saw a little of what he does behind the scenes and figured I’d give it a shot. Metal Jesus’ name is well earned Game hacking came from noticing the comparison between Adventure Time and ‘A Boy and His Blob’. I posted in an Internet forum that someone should make that hack. Because it’s the Internet, someone snarkily replied, “Why don’t YOU make it?” I hadn’t thought of that. So I started to do some research on how others do it and went from there. I never did do that hack, but have done several others. I’m not quite a homebrewer, yet. I’ve had a lot of help with this project. Someone else did the coding and another friend did the music. I’m just editing some graphics and colors and text, stuff like that. My origin story? The summarized version is I’m the 6th of 7 kids growing up in a house with one TV so if I wanted to play Atari (at the time) I had to wake up before anyone else to get some game time in. I didn’t get my own gaming TV until the late 80s. Once I did it was just about the only thing I wanted to do. With the chaos of having so many other brothers and sisters it was my escape. I got older, newer consoles came out and It’s always been my #1 hobby. -You are such a beloved gaming personality, Retrosoft Studios included you in their game Retromania Wrestling. What is it like to have that kind of cultural currency? Being in a game, even as an NPC, is a dream come true. And the fact it’s in a wrestling game is even better because I’m such a fan. That game’s concept started out as a YouTuber Wrestling game because the creator is a fan of all these great YouTube channels. He asked me long ago if I wanted to be in it, which I agreed (of course) but later he learned he could license actual wrestlers which is a better idea. I told him I’d still love to be in it even as an audience member or something. He did me one better having me sit ringside at Too Many Games where we met and where I played the first demo of the game in 2019. Portrait of the artist as a pixelated man sitting ringside -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? Metal Jesus is my first influence as I was on his channel before I had my own channel. Other channels like GameSack and SNES Drunk were influential, too, as they let the game footage do the talking for them, overdubbing their opinions or pointing out things while one is seeing the footage. That’s what I like so I keep with that idea for most of my videos. Channels to watch? Like many now, I love Scott the Woz’s writing and quick editing. It cracks me up. I love watching channels grow that put in the effort. Channels like Roxolid Products, DiskCart, SquarePegs, GameDad -- all these channels that I might see commenting on my videos from when I kind of started taking off and now they have channels themselves and are growing at a nice pace. -Your games are known for fun takes on trending topics that breathe new life into classic games, such as Pac-Man: TMNT Edition, Space Force, WAP, and COVID-19. How would you describe your inspiration and aesthetic, and what to you are the hallmarks of a Riggs game? I never have to think too hard, it’s just whatever inspiration comes that moment. I was literally watching Bob’s Burgers one day and thought ‘I could hack BurgerTime with those characters’ so whipped up that hack in a couple hours, just because. Things like that Pac-Man: TMNT Edition, the official TMNT social media accounts posted Pac-Man parody art with the ghosts with the famous eyebands and the pizza being Pac-Man. I thought to myself ‘I can make that real’ so I did. Not sure I have any hallmarks but I do often use NES carts as a power-up because I already have the graphic made. Wocka wocka wocka, er I mean cowabunga! -What tools do you use to create? Tile Layer Pro (TLP) for graphic editing, TBLater for changing text as needed and FCEUX for emulation as it has a built-in hex editor for changing colors and manipulating graphics like title screens as needed. Best thing is they’re all free so anyone can use them, too. -What made you decide to make a new game from scratch? What was your inspiration as you designed this game? I want to get away from making hacks and have something that’s my own that I can sell at conventions. There was an old homebrew that someone made for charity. I reached out asking if I could basically buy the rights to that rom so I can hack all the graphics and make it my own. To my surprise, he said he’d just code me a new game (which plays like that homebrew I asked about) but making it unique to itself. -Was the experience of developing your “Riggs Project” from the ground-up different compared to your hacks? On my end, honestly, not much as I’m still just doing graphic and color and text editing. Since someone else coded the game for me and another friend did the music, my side is doing the graphics and will eventually get boxes and manuals designed and printed, too. I have a lot of help on my side. Couldn’t do it without them. -Did you have a different attitude toward developing “Riggs Project” compared to your previous games? Does playing with existing worlds and concepts impose limits on what you can do with them or do you feel it offers a larger sandbox to play in? I just wanted a simple arcade-style game that was more just for fun than anything. I’m a huge supporter of homebrew projects, especially the ones on NES. I understand that most might play the game once or twice and put it on the shelf with the rest of their collection. This is just a fun project to do but the idea that I can customize graphics to the individual is what I was looking forward to doing. Will make for great gifts. -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing the “Riggs Project”? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? With editing graphics, color and text, I’ve never been able to edit sound, though I know it can be done. I have a friend who does chiptunes (Chips ‘N Cellos) but learning there’s a specific way to make them so they actually fit into the confines of an NES game was interesting to read. My chiptune friend had to re-write the same songs to make them fit and now they know how to do it for future projects, if anyone decides to use them for music in their NES game. Like with hacks and everything else, it’s VERY time consuming. Save LOTS of drafts. -Ever since my first episode, M-Tee planted this idea in my mind that a game’s protagonist serves as both the player's point of immersion in the game as well as a reflection of its designer. In the “Riggs Project” the protagonist is you, but you’ve noted that is the case for the default game, and that you can customize graphics as needed. Does that mean you might tweak the protagonist to be other people? Exactly. The default for this game isn’t even me! The basic default is based on a myth or legend that’s been around for a long, long time for NES collectors. In the back of magazines there were companies that would buy back your old games. There was one that featured a game called Yeah Yeah Beebiss I. As it turns out, it’s most likely a rough translation of a Famicom game we never got that featured a Chinese jumping ghost. I thought how fun it would be to make that game so there actually was one! After asking a couple of trusted sources I was reminded the same thing happened to other prototypes of someone doing a homebrew and simply calling it the name of the lost game, only to have that lost game actually surface. I didn’t want to think I was lying to anyone so the game I’m working on is a sequel to that legend. Yeah Yeah Beebiss II. The name may seem silly to those who don’t know the legend, but that’s what I had in mind. When I edit the graphics to someone (like the one I’m also doing for myself) I’ll probably change the name, though. Same game, just different name. ‘Riggs’ Myth Quest’ or something equally lame. I haven’t quite gotten that far, yet. Art for Baby Kyonshi no Amida Daibouken, considered likely to be Yeah Yeah Beebiss I -Whenever you post about a new game you have available, fans flood your comments eager to buy. How does it feel to see so many people enjoying your games? I still don’t feel very comfortable about the quality of not only my game edits but my labels or craftsmanship or anything like that. You’re always your own worst critic. I think it’s great. I just wish I was better equipped for sales. Etsy doesn’t like hacks and homebrews and eBay is a mess now. Hard to keep track of everything as it’s all just me, doing the hacking and editing, putting the game together, making sure the order is correct, mailing them out, getting tracking info. I don’t even have address labels, I still write everything by hand on envelopes. That’s my handwriting on them. -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon, NES or otherwise? Any dream projects? I would like to do another project like this eventually. I know not everyone likes homebrews and even the want and need for NES is diminishing in favor of other consoles like SNES and N64, but there’ll always be a fandom. I’ve been a cheerleader for homebrew projects since I started my channel and have a couple leads on people I can team up with in the future. The dream project would be to have work for a game company. Would also like to look into getting my homebrew on digital storefronts like the Switch eShop, but I understand it’s not as easy to just put an NES game through an emulator and calling it good. -Do you have any updates on the game that you would like to share? An official title? A release date mayhaps? Of course! The official title is Yeah Yeah Beebiss II as I mentioned before. But that’s only for the default game without custom edits. The edited version of the game I haven’t finalized on a title, just yet. I could just call it ‘John Riggs in Beebiss World’ or something (which is probably exactly what it’s going to be called. I literally just thought of that while answering this question). I don’t have a release date, yet. I can do carts literally right now but am waiting for boxes and manuals. Soon as I get those it’ll be ready. -You promote many new homebrew games on your YouTube channel and social media pages. Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? There’s always something new coming up. Witch n’ Wiz from Matt Hughson looks fantastic. Full Quiet from Retrotainment has been in the works for a while and looks awesome. Played a demo at PAX in 2019. Can’t wait for the final. Orange Island looks amazing, too. Magnilo is a super fun game I have a review demo but will be officially out soon. So many great games coming out and hard to keep up with everyone making games using NES Maker. Promotional image from The Magnilo Case’s Kickstarter page -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? Homebrews are made for fans by fans. Support them when you can, if not with cash, sharing or retweeting news about homebrews can go a long way. Chips ‘N Cellos @ChipsNCellos All answers provided by Chris from Chips ‘N Cellos -Before we dive into Yeah Yeah Beebiss II, I would love to talk about you and your backgrounds. What first inspired you to be musicians? What led you to compose chiptune generally, and compose music for homebrew games? What is the origin story of Chips ‘N Cellos? Going WAY back to the beginning of our lives- Jess started playing the cello when she was 6 and a half years old and stuck with it all the way through a Juilliard Master’s Degree in Cello Performance. She’s the real music professional out of us three: My brother Steve and I work in retail and digital marketing at the NBA, respectively. Steve and I grew up in a fairly musical family, and spent our childhood pausing Mega Man games and recording stage themes on cassette tape to listen back to more easily! I later played guitar in a few bands (my 15 minutes of fame came in the form of a video contest win in 2009. Look up: the pillows Gazelle City 25th anniversary on YouTube!), but rock music has been dead for a long while now and as my band mates and I grew up and started to have families, I found myself needing another musical/creative outlet. I’ve always wanted to compose 8-bit Mega Man music, and the initial idea behind Chips ‘N Cellos was to try something different and cover classical music pieces in that familiar Capcom style. We wanted to experiment further and add live cello accompaniments along the way, too. So far, our project has severely over-indexed on the CHIP angle of the project haha, but we’ll eventually be looking to release original music that combines both sounds. Up to this point, the positive reception of our Mega Man-style covers has inspired us to continue creatively arranging famous classical, rock and pop music. In regards to composing for homebrews, I think every chiptuner has—at the very least—a subconscious desire to compose for games. When John approached us about including our ‘Compose Man’ material in his project, we were interested! -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? The Mega Man soundtracks from the 80’s and 90’s are obvious influences on our work. I listen to a wide variety of music, but consider the pillows (from Japan) and Machinae Supremacy (from Sweden) as two of my all-time favorite influences. the pillows -Do you feel that your music has any qualities that are quintessentially you? How would you describe your aesthetic? I think most certainly the classical instrument + chiptune mix is a rare combination that I hope we’ll be able to do more justice to in the coming years. Stay tuned for it! As far as our arrangement projects go, I’ve wanted to make sure our music sounded as faithful to the original Mega Man soundtracks as we could get it, so I think thus far our work is quintessentially “NES Mega Man.” Thanks goes out to the multiple chiptuners before us who crafted the FamiTracker instruments we’ve used to jumpstart our project. Those instruments—and the advent of FamiTracker itself—fuel our passion and light our way. -In addition to your musical work on video games, you maintain a YouTube channel that posts fun chiptune compositions with accompanying classical cello arrangements. Does your experience composing original chiptunes based on Mega Man, Castlevania, classical music, and pop music provide inspiration for your game music, or vice versa? I would say that our YouTube channel content is our primary focus, and if select pieces fit the vibe of a game, we’ll always be open to having them featured (under the right circumstances). Crafting the covers we’ve uploaded has certainly helped us refine our abilities to write original music in FamiTracker. We’ve also provided original tunes for the Mega Man Arena brawler and we certainly wouldn’t have been in a position to do that without becoming more experienced in authoring FamiTracker music first. The YouTube content has been good practice, if nothing else! Fortunately for us, whether it be cover songs or original tunes, the tone of our music is distinctly a “gaming” one, so we don’t often have to make hard choices to adopt certain styles over others. Our music can be a match for both games and the gamer/listener community at large. However, we look forward to experimenting with many more electronic sounds in the future! -Tell me about the development of Yeah Yeah Beebiss II’s music, what is your composition process? Is the creative process different compared to when you compose more traditional music? John Riggs originally approached us about featuring some of our ‘Compose Man’ covers in his homebrew project, and we thought it was a fun idea. He had found our channel in the earlier days of our activity, and I felt like I owed him one, haha! Aside from that, we want to compose more music for games, so this was a logical next step for us. Interestingly, we had discovered during the game’s development that our original compositions needed to be “demade” to fit what’s called a FamiTone format. Re-engineering the featured pieces was a fun challenge because of parameter limitations associated with FamiTone music (i.e. limited FamiTracker effects, tempos, etc.). Luckily, converting our tracks was a matter of simplifying the original FamiTracker working files and it was a neat exercise to see if I could replicate our original pieces using even more stripped down methods than the ones I used for the original compositions. Who knew simple 8-bit FamiTracker music could be even MORE simplified, haha! In the end, the core of the songs remained intact and I have a new appreciation for those who make magic happen within the tight confines of FamiTone and homebrew projects. Less is indeed more. -What tools do you use to compose, generally as well as for games? We use a few different programs including FamiTracker, FL Studio, GuitarPro (!!), Adobe Audition and ProTools. We also record with a mobile device called the Spire Studio. -How did you first connect with John Riggs and Mega Cat Studios, and what was the working dynamic like? John came across our profile at some point in 2019 and was perhaps one of the first content producers to shout us out. We’ve been internet friends ever since! Mega Cat Studios has been developing John’s game and we had synced up when it was time to convert our ‘Compose Man’ tunes into FamiTone-compliant files. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, all our collaboration had been done across email, and the team at Mega Cat was super efficient and helpful at implementing our tunes. I have a lot of respect for the indie dev community, and I LOVE seeing homebrew projects like this keep the old spirit of NES retro gaming alive for new generations to enjoy! We’d love to participate in more projects in the future. Screenshot from Chips ‘N Cellos Composeman Album video on YouTube -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing the game’s music? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? As mentioned above, writing music for homebrew projects can be challenging if the FamiTracker file you’re working on isn’t set up to be FamiTone compliant. My advice, first and foremost, would be to set all the necessary volume and instrument parameters up from the get-go so your composing can be locked into a format that the homebrew can read properly. Aside from that, my general chiptune-composing advice is: listen, listen, listen. We’re not the most technically-sound composers in the scene, nor are we the most formally-educated. Our talent lies within our ears, and our ability to extract what we hear in our heads and turn it into beeps and boops. We do what we do now because we’ve listened to music every day for our 30+ years of life on this planet, haha. Learn what kind of music you’d like to make, go listen to it (study it), try to re-compose it (in FamiTracker!) and then experiment with your own melodies and harmonies. In all honesty, if we can produce music in FamiTracker that others like to listen to, YOU can too! -Which tracks are you most proud of? Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King came out especially well. I was aiming for a Jewel Man (MM 9) style cave track, and I think the final tones were ultimately the right ones for the piece. I’m also a big Beethoven fan, so our Pathetique boss fight cover was definitely a fun one to work on. -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon, NES, or otherwise? As mentioned previously, we’ll be looking to spend the second half of 2021 zeroing in on writing original chiptune music that at last truly makes use of live cello embellishments. It’s something we’ve promised in our project’s title. Don’t worry, it’s coming! Aside from that, we are busy producing the third and final Mega Man style classical music compilation—Compose Man 3—which will feature nearly 50 other chiptune artists across the community. We’re hoping to have it finalized by the end of the year. We’re also hoping the pandemic finally begins to subside and things get back to normal. When they do, Jess is due to play in an all-new off-Broadway show called Between the Lines, which has obviously been on hold since the lockdown. Screenshot from the website for Between the Lines -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? Being involved in John’s project has gotten us excited about the whole homebrew “genre” to begin with! The Adventures of Panzer and Slow Mole seem interesting, and Pixel Poops just looks hilarious! -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? Thanks again for your time, thanks to John and Mega Cat Studios for featuring our music, and thanks to all the gamers out there keeping the retro scene alive! We’re living our best lives through this CnC project, and we hope to make positive contributions to the community in the future. Conclusion: Thanks for tuning in to this mini episode of a series that will provide first looks and deep dives into promising homebrew games coming across the finish line. What are your thoughts on Yeah Yeah Beebiss II and its talented development team? What homebrews are you eagerly looking forward to? Perhaps you’ll see it here soon when…A Homebrew Draws Near! Command?
  18. View Listing Halloween Scare Cart 2016 Looking primarily for trades (for other NES Homebrews), but will consider offers as well. Marked condition as average because there is creases in the bottom corners front side of box. Box and cart Lister Deadeye Date 07/22/2020 Price Category For Sale/Trade
  19. Hey y’all! Yoey and I are Team Chocoblip and we’re here to present our first ever NES project! It’s still untitled for now, we’ve just been calling it Project Chocoblip. We’re hoping to have a fun little game by the time the NESDev compo deadline comes in a few weeks . Project Chocoblip is a Metroidvania/Adventure platformer about a girl who gets lost in the woods while trying to help her dad collect wood. With only her pom pom as defense, she must now find her way to the top of a mountain to make a signal fire. As of right now, the engine we’ve built for the tech demo features: Full 8-way scrolling: CHR-RAM parallax: Arbitrary slopes: Throwable pom pom: And here’s a bit of full gameplay. Here’s some details about the game’s development Written exclusively in Wiz. The level editor features a JS port of most of the game logic for immediate feedback. Currently using the full fat Famitracker sound driver for easing the composition process. Might change later depending on ROM requirements. Art created in Photoshop + NESST + custom editor. Build process completely automated from within the custom editor. Uses ANROM with 64 KB of PRG. Scrolling is done entirely within a single nametable. Among our future goals for the project are: Adding enemies/enemy logic. Adding other miscellaneous entities: one way platforms, moving platforms, environmental hazards. Finish final music with our guest composers. Developing a boss. Title screen/menus/cutscenes. Polish, polish, polish I'll try to keep this thread updated as we progress. We'll also often see we talking about the project in either the VGS or NESDev Discord servers. Either way, you can find me here if you're into the Tweets land and you can see posts from Yoey here.
  20. @Gloves, @Deadeye, wanted to add some games to the HB DB is there a way to do this as a mass upload. i have about 50 to add.
  21. Download (or play in your browser) the latest build here! (ver. 2020.07.24 BETA 3) The Kraken cometh... From the deepest trenches of the ocean, the Kraken has come to lay waste to your city! The archers have slung every arrow. The burning tar has run dry. Every piece of military weaponry has been dispatch. And yet... the Kraken moves forward, climbing the towering walls of your seaside fortress. With no ammunition left, the city itself moves from a barricade, to a weapon! The stones of the walls are broken off, and hurdled down at hideous creature. And it just might be enough to slow it down till morning, when surely help will arrive... --- Hi! I am working on my first Homebrew NES game, FROM BELOW! It a falling block puzzle game featuring: Soft Drops Hard Drops Wall Kicks T-Spins Lock Delay Hold piece (maybe... haven't decided yet) 3 modes of play: Kraken Battle Mode The signature mode of FROM BELOW. Battle the Kraken by clear lines across the onslaught of attacking Kraken Tentacles. The Tentacles push more blocks onto the screen every few seconds, forcing to act quickly, and strategize on an every changing board. Classic Mode The classic block falling mechanics you know and love without any new gimicks. Modernize for 2020, with Hard Drops, Lock Delay, and more, making this (hopefully) the best feeling puzzle game on the NES! Turn Based Kraken Battle Mode Similar to "Kraken Battle Mode", but instead of the Kraken attacking every few seconds, it advances its tentacle every time you drop a piece. Make every move count, as this move favors slow, deliberate play! I've been working on it for over a month already (just discovered this forum today), and the game is nearly complete! Now that I know about this site, I'll try to keep this thread up to date with the latest build. BETA NOW OPEN! The game is now feature complete, and open for Beta Testing! Please let me know of any bugs you find in the comments below!
  22. A Homebrew Draws Near! A blog series by @Scrobins Episode 11: From Below Introduction: Some of the most clever homebrews can reinvigorate our love for an entire category of games with the simplest tweak. What once seemed like an oversaturated genre flooded with clones has something new for gamers because one dev could see new possibilities, offering new challenges and flipping the script of how we play these games. For this entry, I’m covering From Below: a falling block puzzle game developed by Matt Hughson, Tuï, Zolionline, and Syrupneko. As of the time of this writing, an initial batch of 50 CIBs were sold, with another batch of 50 CIBs potentially available in the future, a Vs. version in the works, and the rom is available here. LE CIB Development Team: @matthughson (Matt Hughson): programming Zolionline (Haller Zolàn): pixel art Tuï: music Syrupneko (Jason Payne): cover and manual art An early image of From Below when it was What’s Kraken Game Evolution: From Below first teased its existence as early as a May 22, 2020 tweet in which Matt showed off a very Tetris-y screen. One week later, Matt created a thread on NESDev to announce From Below (formerly titled “What’s Kraken”) and share development updates. On July 8, 2020 Matt created a thread on VGS to announce From Below and keep followers up to date. As the game neared completion, Matt created a Discord for beta testers and feedback, an itch.io page for downloading the rom, and a mailing list for fans to sign up for pre-pre-orders. Building a game, one block of code at a time On November 9, 2020 Matt made 50 CIB copies of From Below available through his eBay store, which sold out quickly. Matt has teased another 50 CIBs that he may make available in the future. Meanwhile on January 14, 2021, Matt announced a completed beta of a Vs. version of From Below for the Nintendo Vs. Arcade System that fans could download. From Below on the Nintendo Vs. Arcade System Gameplay Overview: From Below describes itself as a falling block puzzle game, but unlike your typical Tetris-like, this game pits you against the mighty kraken who pushes up against the blocks you’re sending down. You are defending the city from the kraken’s attack by breaking off stones from the city walls and hurling them onto the monster, in the hope of delaying the beast until morning. Yes, there is a progression of time as every 10 lines cleared slowly brings day into night and onward straight until dawn. Controls are easy to learn, left and right on the d-pad shifts blocks accordingly, and tapping A or B will rotate blocks. Hitting down applies a soft drop to a block while hitting up applies a hard drop. For more masochistic players, hitting select triggers a kraken attack. From Below features 3 separate play modes. Classic Mode offers a more standard falling block game, sans kraken. In Timed Mode, the kraken attacks every 10 seconds, pushing garbage up from the bottom of the screen (which can be cleared in gameplay like any other block). In Fixed Mode, the kraken will attack every time a block lands. Gameplay of From Below Writer’s Review: From Below offers a fresh take on an old classic, adding an unpredictable new element that has as much potential to yield unexpected assistance as much as added frustration, which is a fun aspect however it affects you. I have never been a good Tetris player, but if my game has improved, it is 100% attributable to the number of times I came back to From Below to play again, long after I felt prepared for this post. The active role the kraken plays isn’t just a gimmick, it really affects gameplay with its added challenge, especially as the game speeds up and every second counts. You at least have some warning as a tentacle hover below a column before it actually pushes up, as though the beast were as indecisive of its move as me. When I learned that completing a line of blocks can send the kraken’s probing tentacle back into the depths, I found my strategy shifting in order to minimize the amount of garbage pushed up by the monster. However I learned the hard way not to pat myself on the back for brilliant moves before dropping the block. Too often I savored the moment so long that the kraken pushed up a block a split second before I set my block in place and cleared a large section, and instead had to settle for a lesser win when my block no longer fit so perfectly. This added uncertainty, which provides an opposing momentum to a falling block game, supplementing an already addictive experience, begs the question how it took so long for someone to conceive it. It’s easy to say that the kraken’s attacks are predictable in both Timed and Fixed Modes, but in truth you can get so immersed in your own blocks and strategy that the reemergence of the tentacle can still come as a surprise. More predictable is the likelihood of a new spike in tentacle porn memes. Hit my blocks harder daddy Adding to the game’s ambiance, Tuï’s chiptune stylings layer a perky soundtrack that injects happy energy into an already sprightly game. If ever I felt like music could give me a sugar rush, I felt it in Tuï’s tunes. Of course it isn’t all peppy beats, the music shifts to a tense, frenetic melody if your blocks reach a certain height, ensuring you get as nervous as the castle dwellers you are supposed to defend. I’m at least grateful that game over track has a “good game, care to try again?” vibe, because I ended up there. A lot. In my review of 8-Bit Xmas 2020, I praised the game’s frame around the field of play, which created a beautifully detailed background that set it apart from its licensed-era forebears, and From Below continues this tradition. The castle and surrounding landscape are gorgeous in their color and detail. The passage of time shown with the completion of 10 lines reveals Zolionline showing off his skills with the NES color palette. It is entirely possible I got several game over’s because I lose time admiring these pixel paintings. Suddenly I find myself wanting to make an actual request: a background mode in which the soundtrack plays and the background slowly shifts across its day/night timescale so I can enjoy the music and color on my tv while reading on the couch. Meanwhile wrapping up the game in a nice bow, Syrupneko’s box and manual art adds fun, polished touches that make From Below fit neatly in the pantheon of great licensed-era art. The manual art reminds me of the fun, cartoony story-telling function that a well-designed manual can offer, like the Super Mario Bros. games, or more recently Project Blue. And this manual is more layered than you realize, eagle-eyed players will spot a number of easter eggs hidden throughout the manual. You won’t sleep a wink until you find them all Interviews: To learn more about the art and passion beneath the surface of From Below, waiting to be discovered like a kraken of interesting trivia, I interviewed the game’s development team. Matthughson @matthughson -Before we dive into From Below, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a homebrewer? What is your origin story? I grew up in the heyday of the NES, when Nintendo was everywhere and all consuming. It had a huge impact on me, and ultimately led to me becoming a professional game developer (which I still do). I ran NES emulation sites, and NES fan sites back in high school, and began collecting NES games around the same time (amassing about 350 games, before trimming it down to my Top 100). I also do a lot of indie game development, which has skewed more and more towards retro-looking. Initially I was just making 2D games, then I would try to make them more "accurate" to retro-consoles, until eventually I found Pico-8 (a "Fantasy Console") and made a bunch of stuff there. But I have, for some time, wanted to make a game for an actual retro system. I first started with Gameboy actually, but didn't get too far before discovering the book "Making Games for the NES" by Steve Hugg. This let me hit the ground running, and eventually lead me to reading through nesdoug.com and coming away with the seeds of what would become From Below. Cover for Making Games for the NES by Steven Hugg -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? I didn't really get into homebrew games (even as a player) until very recently. I think the Micro Mages Kickstarter was the first time I realized that homebrew had come so far. I still thought of it as the really rudimentary stuff I used to read about on NESWorld.com. Since then I've picked up a bunch of homebrew (Action53, Battle Kid 1/2, Candelabra Trilogy, Quest Forge, Project Blue, Lizard, Alfonzo, Twin Dragons, The Incident, Micro Mages, Nebs n' Debs, NEScape). I think the Micro Mages Kickstarter (or maybe it was Project Blue) made me aware of The Assembly Line podcast, which really opened my eyes. I listened from the beginning and it was like travelling through time listening to the evolution of this community. It was really crazy when I started developing for the NES, and I got to meet all the "stars" of the show. I've been pretty surprised, or rather disappointed, with how little NES games are actually being made by the community. From the outside looking in, I was under the impression that there were tons of stuff in the works, and I'd be constantly finding new projects to follow, but it’s actually relatively quiet, especially compared to other indie gamedev communities. I wish there were more projects to follow, and people were more open with their progress. That being said, I follow everyone I can find on Twitter, and constantly check the NESDev and VGS Discords to see if something new ever pops up. I find it super inspiring to see other people's work, and it really does drive me to do even better! -How would you describe your design aesthetic, and what to you are the hallmarks of a Matt Hughson game? I really put a lot of effort into the minute gameplay details. I think it’s the difference between an ok game, and a great game. Usually I write platformer games, so stuff like allowing players to jump for a few frames after leaving a platform, or making a hit box for the player slightly smaller than the sprite, etc.; that's the kind of stuff I spend a lot of time thinking about and getting right. I never let myself skimp on the gameplay details. If something doesn't feel perfect, I hack it till it does. Every minor piece of player friction gets some of my development time. With From Below, this was actually surprisingly important. There are a million games out there like From Below, so standing out is hard. What I have aimed for is creating the best feeling version of the game on the NES. If you go back and play the original Tetris for the NES, you might be surprised at how slow and clunky it feels by today's standards. From Below adds new gameplay mechanics to the formula, but also makes sure the basics are perfect. There are some obvious features that improve the feel, like adding Hard Drop (pressing up to instantly drop a block and not having to wait for it to fall) and fast flow through menus. There are also less obvious ones too. For example, "lock delay": this is the time it takes for a block to lock into place when it hits the bottom of the board. When a block reaches the bottom of the board, it doesn't instantly freeze. It waits 15 frames before committing to that position. Tetris for the NES doesn't have this feature. But just having lock delay itself isn't enough. There are subtleties to it that took a long time to get right, and are easy (as a developer) to just say "who cares". When a block hits the bottom of the board, instead of starting a "timer" to delay the lock a fixed amount of time, I start a timer and subtract the amount of time that it delayed before moving to the current position. Meaning if a piece is dropping a space every 10 frames, and the lock delay is 15 frames, I will only wait an additional 5 frames (not the full 15 which would end up feeling like 25 frames). This means that at lower levels, where the blocks move very slow, there is no additional time before a piece locks into place, and at higher levels, there is a very noticeable "hitch" before the piece locks. And across all levels there is a consistency that can be learned; it will always take at least 15 frames before a piece locks into place. This is true at level 1, and its true at level 100. But that's not enough! To feel good, the lock delay timer is reset every time the piece moves down a space. Without this, you would still have a very "sticky" feeling game, where pieces lock into place as you try to push them to the outside of the board and the timer runs out. You also can't reset the timer moving horizontal, lest you end up with the ability to "hover in place" by going back and forth. None of this is particularly difficult to implement, but takes time and patience to discover and finetune. Lock delay is just one of a dozen little pieces of the puzzle that makes From Below feel the way it does. -What tools do you use to code and create? The entire game is written in C using CC65 to compile. I use Visual Studio Code as a text editor and build pipeline. I use Shiru's "neslib" and Doug Fraker's "nesdoug" libraries, along with Famitone2 for Music and Sound. Audio was authored in Famitraker. Nametables were built with NESScreenTool, and CHR ROM file was put together in YY-CHR. From Below is built using the NROM mapper. I used Photoshop to layout the box and cart sticker, and InDesign for the manual. Homepage of nesdoug -In addition to your homebrewing, you are a game dev by profession, currently working for Microsoft at The Coalition, and have worked on such games as Gears of War. In what ways is your professional work similar to or different compared to your indie work? Although this was my first NES game, I've written many games prior to this. I think the AAA stuff helps a lot in understanding how to produce a game, meaning what it takes to get it out the door (log bugs, prioritize work, work with teammates, source control, etc.). I'm not sure how much it helps on the programming side, although I do spend a lot of time writing C++ which is obviously very similar to C. Indie development, however, helped a lot more on the programming side. From that experience, I knew how to write a game top to bottom (rendering, game loop, gameplay, etc.). Coming into this project I didn't actually have much trouble on the programming side of things (the gameplay is quite simple compared to most of my indie projects), so I was able to spend most of my effort on learning the intricacies of the NES hardware itself (which I did find very challenging). It's also why I chose C instead of 6502 assembly to make this game: I figured learning to develop for a 35+ year old system would be hard enough without also learning a new programming language. If you are thinking about getting into NESDev and haven't made a game before, personally I would recommend picking up Pico-8 or Game Maker first, to learn programming. Trying to do too much at once may lead to slow progress and frustration. The sooner you can get something on the screen with any project, the more motivated you will be to move forward (I think anyway). -Do you find your professional work informs your approach to homebrewing, or vice versa? Yes, as I mentioned before, I can't help but approach hobby projects in the same way I approach professional work. -At the heart of From Below’s gameplay is the Kraken Battle Mode (which also has a turn-based mode) in which tentacles are pushing…from below! What inspired this feature of the game? I actually don't remember. I think it was from looking for some free open-source art to use for what, originally, was going to be a simple Tetris clone to learn from. I found this nice seaside platformer tileset built to NES specs (https://opengameart.org/content/plattoon), and I think it just made me think of a sea creature. I think I already had the idea of pushing garbage blocks up from the bottom, but I'm not totally sure anymore. I wish I could remember better, sorry! -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing From Below? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? The first surprise for me was that C was even a viable language for NESDev. As I mentioned, From Below is entirely written in C (other than external libs), and originally I had assumed I would need to learn 6502 assembly to make NES games. That was pretty intimidating for me. A small but important thing I discovered was that NESDev has an official Discord! I used the forums exclusively for the first while before happening upon the Discord, which is much better for quick questions. https://discord.gg/7CaMyR8STT The biggest challenge throughout the project was managing memory and performance. This is probably true for every project I imagine. I think Pico-8 prepared me pretty well for these struggles, but the process for dealing with them is obviously much different on the NES. For perf issue, I use "color emphasis bits" changed mid frame, to get rough ideas of what was taking a lot of time, and optimized as needed. For running out of memory, I just did culls of all bloated data here and there. Although it might not bother most people, I put a lot of effort into time-slicing my frames so that there would be limited sprite-flicker due to going over budget for a frame. It was super surprising to me how just updating a 20x10 board when clearing lines could tank the CPU. Something that on any modern CPU would be nothing. I think this goes back to the early point about attention to detail. Sprite flicker is a pretty minor thing to most, but caring about each one of these little things is what (to me) adds up to a professional looking package. I was also surprised that I could actually build an NES game from scratch in just a few months, and that I could actually figure out how to ship a physical CIB release a few months after that. -I always ask my interviewees whether there is a reflection of themselves in the game’s protagonist, but given the game is centered around tiles and a sea monster, I’ll instead ask what about the game’s unique environment and gameplay reflects you and your gaming personality/preferences? No not at all. In fact, I don't even really like Tetris (more of a Tetris Attack man myself). I chose this game as a good "first project" because I figured it would be easy, and the basic design is well understood. However, it's been really interesting working with high-level players, and learning what makes these games great for them, and what doesn't. Screenshot from Tetris Attack -How did you first connect with Zolionline, Tuï, and Syrupneko when you were building your team? Zoliononline I found on NESDev in a "pixel artist looking for work" thread (http://forums.NESDev.com/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=13144). Like a lot of threads on NESDev, it had been going for years. It's immediately obvious, looking at his work, that he is very talented. However, as you read through that thread, you will see literal years go by with no projects coming to fruition (I later found out that he worked on Wolfling, which I think was a pretty popular compo entry). So with that in mind (as I remember it) I pitched myself as someone who has a small project that can be finished in a few months, with little chance of it not getting done. He agreed and quickly started pumping out some amazing art. Tuï (the musician and sound designer on the game) actually reached out to me after seeing my "dev log" on NESDev. He sent me a link to his Soundcloud, and it immediately clicked with me. He pumped out some tunes really quickly as well, and after a little back and forth figuring out the limits of Famitone2, we had our soundtrack. The music seems to be a real highpoint of the game for a lot of people (including me). Jason Payne (Syrupneko) reached out to me after I put a general call out for help on Twitter (https://twitter.com/syrupneko/status/1275189660269101056) -What was the working dynamic like in your collaboration with them? Working with all of them has been amazing. I am totally aware that this game would not have anywhere close to the following it does without their eye/ear catching work! We had a lot of back and forth early on as we figured out the vision of the game, but also figured out the tech limits (we were all pretty new to this I think). I built small batch scripts that they could run to compile their work into the game, and test it without going through me. I also built a Sound Test screen so Tuï could test his work in game (especially important when we couldn't get music to play properly in Famitone2 and needed to do some trial and error). It's still there in the final version of the game if you know the code. -There has been a lot of support and enthusiasm for From Below, thanks to your hype-building on social media. How does it feel to see so many people foaming at the mouth to play your game? It feels really good! If I am being honest, a big part of doing this is for external validation. I know it shouldn't be, I should do it for the love of the art or something, but I really do love having people interested in what I am making. It's probably a flaw in my character. I do, however, recognize that a big part of the hype is simply because demand significantly outweighs supply in the NES world. I think you could release pretty much anything on an NES cart and sell 50 copies, so take anything I say with a grain of salt. One thing I would say to others hoping to have a successful, commercial release: you don't really sell the game on release day. You're selling it for the weeks, months, and even years preceding the release. Don't play everything so close to your chest. Post progress as much as you can. Build fans before the game is even out, and keep building it after for your next project. Make sure everyone who would buy your game knows about it! -You also develop for the Pico-8, an increasingly popular game engine. In your opinion, how does developing for the Pico-8 compare to the NES? Do you feel some games lend themselves better to one versus the other? Pico-8 is an amazing game making toolkit. I think people really underestimate how brilliant it really is, thinking it’s just another game engine, but it is so much more. Pico-8 itself really is a game, in the same way that the Zachtronics games are also programming. It did a lot to prepare me for NES development: Working with limited CPU Working with limited Memory Balancing Speed and Memory, and understanding the relationship between the two. Working with limited palettes (16 colors) Low screen resolutions (128x128) Working with limited buttons on a controller. The power of sharing GIFs. All of these I had "pretended" to work with, when I made "retro-looking" games, but Pico-8 is the real deal, where you can't opt out of the limits when times get tough. Funny enough I actually ported Super Mario Bros, World 1, to Pico-8: https://www.lexaloffle.com/bbs/?tid=31744 Thinking about it now, another big help was a "1 game a month" challenge I did a few years ago. As the name implies, for 12 months straight I wrote and released a new game every month. It's grueling at times, but you tend to learn a lot doing this, and it’s actually where I started using Pico-8. Gameplay of Super Mario Bros. for Pico-8 -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon, NES or otherwise? Any dream projects? When I started NES development, I had a 3-project plan, which incrementally more difficult targets: Project 1: "Tetris-clone". NROM. Limited CPU concerns. Single screen. Understood design. Project 2: "Witch n’ Wiz port". Action puzzle game. Non-NROM Mapper with expanded memory. Multiple moving objects. Basic scrolling. Understood design. Self-published physical cart release. Project 3: "Dash Maxius". Advanced Mapper. Platformer. Fast. Multiple scrolling directions. Require 6502 assembly optimizations. Published physical cart release. The idea being that with each project I will introduce a bit more complexity, ultimately leading up to the type of games I want to be making: fast paced platformers. This plan has evolved a bit since then though. Project 1 became From Below and evolved beyond a simple clone. It also ended up getting a physical cart release, which was supposed to be part of Project 2. Project 2 is a port of my already released Pico-8 game, Witch n' Wiz (https://www.lexaloffle.com/bbs/?tid=28944). The idea here is that I will use a more advanced mapper (MMC1) allowing for expanded memory capabilities. Originally I thought this would require scrolling, but it doesn't look like it will (all the maps currently fit on a single screen). Currently this project is moving along nicely. I have ported all the core gameplay and maps, have a good pipeline for make more maps. My current plan is to try a package up what I have as an entry into the 2021 NESDev compo. From there I want to start implementing new gameplay mechanics that were not in the original game, eventually releasing the game as a stand-alone product too. Screenshot from Witch n’ Wiz Since I self-published From Below, I will probably end up going with one of the bigger NES publishers for this one (Broke Studio, 6502 Collective, etc.) if they're interested. When that is done, my plan is to move on to Project 3: a realization of a project I started on PC, but never finished. It's a fast-paced action platformer, with a little bit of RPG elements. Inspired by "Super Win the Game" and "Zelda 2". https://twitter.com/matthughson/status/1224116188763938818 I'm not really a "dream project" kind of guy... but I do have one... I want to create a sequel to Zelda 2, but not like you might be thinking! I have a dream to make an original Zelda 3 homebrew for the NES (not a hack), with the backdrop of a real-life alternate history where Nintendo ditched SNES R&D in favor of supporting the NES indefinitely. The manual, for example, will have a message from then-president of Nintendo Hiroshi Yamauchi decrying Sega as anti-consumer for abandoning the Master System in pursuit of a 16-bit replacement. It will be called "Zelda III: The Curse of Ganon" and it will be a prequel to the first 2 games, showing what led to Ganon's obsession with the Triforce. I'd develop the whole thing with the idea of "what would it have looked like if Nintendo released the next Zelda game on the NES in 1991, instead of making A Link to the Past". This is some pretty nerdy stuff, even for me... In the same way the Zelda 1 and 2 each pushed the action RPG in new and interesting directions, this game would attempt to do the same, with a whole new gameplay style. It will be the Rouge One of video games! -You’ve also said that you may release another batch of From Below CIBs at a future date. Any news to sustain fans’ hope? No news at the time of writing this. I did stipulate that the Limited Edition that went out in November 2020 is limited to 100 copies. I only made/sold 50 so far to give myself the opportunity to do another batch if there is demand. My thought at the moment is that I might release them at the same time as my next project to build some hype. Not sure though. If you are interested, the best thing to do is sign up for this mailing list: https://mailchi.mp/7c4c11bb4480/from-below-mailing-list -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? Halcyon is probably one I am most genuinely excited to play. Really anything with art by FrankenGFX has my attention! "Inversion Project" is shaping up to be one of the biggest technical leaps, but I don't think too much has been shared yet outside of the NESDev Discord, and even there it's very little. Full Quiet looks cool, and I love that it seems to break the mold of a traditional NES game. Orange Island looks beautiful. Can't wait to see some actual NES footage! Eyra the Crow Maiden could shape up to be something special. Looked a little rough around the edges during the Kickstarter, but I'm hopeful that will get cleaned up for release. Screenshot from Eyra-The Crow Maiden Dungeons & Doomknights is probably the first NESmaker game that really caught my eye, and it's shaping up nicely. However, I think we still have a long way to go before any NES homebrew games are on the level of mid-to-top tier licensed era games. I think there are a few games that look like they could be at that level, but are at a much smaller scale. I'm still waiting for the Super Mario's and Zelda's of the homebrew world! I think they're coming though. It seems like a lot of the technical hurtles have been overcome, and focus can shift to gameplay. I think the field is wide open for someone to step up and take things to the next level. NESmaker is a possible game changer in the way Unity/GameMaker/Flash were for early indie devs. I have high hopes! Personally though, I enjoy watching games being made more than actually playing them these days. I hope more devs start posting more WIP shots and behind the scenes content. -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? Thanks for taking the time to speak with me! To everyone who bought or played From Below, thank you so much. Genuinely, I mean it. Thank you! And thanks to all the unbelievable developers who took NES homebrew to the point where someone like me can just drop in and make a game with little-to-no understanding of what he is doing. It's really humbling to see what has been accomplished by this community! As Fiskbit on NESDev often says to me: "It's amazing how much you have accomplished, while knowing so little..."! HAHA! Zolionline @Zolionline -Before we dive into From Below, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a homebrew artist? What is the origin story of Zolionline? More than a decade ago I started to play around with RPG Maker ‘97. I started a game but I ended up making custom graphics for characters and NPCs. I started with modifying the original images which is called 'frankenspriting' today. I liked it, but I found an RPG too hard to begin with. I remembered the old, simple NES games I played when I was a child, and I thought I could make something similar. As one of my friends was a programmer, we started to make a fantasy themed platformer game for PC. We never finished it because neither of us could manage that project, but that's how it started. I tried making games for PC and mobile, 2D and 3D, but when I found out that there is an NES-homebrew community (NESDev.com) I instantly felt very enthusiastic. You know, it's pure nostalgia for me. One of my friends once said we are in the age when somebody either relives his childhood or starts visiting hookers. My girlfriend wouldn't appreciate the second, so... that's where I am. -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? After finding out that I will be a hobby pixel artist, I started to participate in a pixel art community (Pixeljoint.com). I found many like-minded people, and as I started to submit pieces for artistic challenges, I slowly found out what's useful for me and what's not. Although I really like the works of Mario Santos (Emperor_Pixel), Simon Stafsnes Andersen (Snake) or Yuriy Gusev (Fool) - just to name a few of the giants - I started to abandon that terrain. Nowadays my influences are little known people in the NES industry from the 80s and early 90s. I'm watching what they did well or where they failed. I'm not a highly educated 2D artist. I teach history and literature to children. I can't relearn drawing and stuff, I try to be as good as people were back then, and as I have many applications and software they didn't have, maybe I can catch up. Red Dragon, pixel art by Mário Santos for Leyria -You leapt onto the homebrew scene as a pixel artist advertising your wares on NESDev, do you feel your artwork has a signature aesthetic that is uniquely you? I think that everybody has a style, even in the size of 16x16. But there are only 256 pixels and it's hard to be really unique. I think I can combine cute and frightening elements in my own way and most of my projects tend to follow this theme. I practiced in this territory and with hundreds of working hours I may have an advance compared to others in the homebrew scene. -In your opinion, what makes good pixel art stand out? What are the ingredients to a memorable level? The secret ingredient is education. The best pixel artist (who I mentioned above, and there are a tons of other people even only on Pixeljoint) are professionals. They could make oil paintings on canvas if you'd like. But they have this cute hobby so we see wonders day by day. It's this simple. -What tools do you use to create? As my hobby is based on the 80s, I also use old or simple tools. For about 20 years I've been using Paint Shop Pro 9. I can use it's shortcuts in total darkness when I can't even see the white marks on the keyboard keys, without failure and rapidly. It's a bit ridiculous if I think of it though. For animations I use a simple program which was made by one of my former workmate in exchange of graphics for his game. I know, there are modern tools for that (e.g. Piskel - just to mention something useful), but that program was made based purely on my needs. Of course I can use programs which help the programmers, like Yy-chr and NESst, but I don't use them for drawing. -You also worked with Lazycow on Wolfling for the 2017 Annual NESDev Coding Competition, have you noticed any changes to your style or overall approach to homebrew games over the years? The only thing that really changed is the approach to this hobby. I only concentrate on NES games and NES development. I got fed up with computers and mobiles. That's a whole other scene about money and for professionals. I'm a small man, if I'd seen my own work near my game collection I couldn't be more happy. I always try to make something bigger, something better, but I'm happy that I don't have to run after my money. Of course, if I can get something out of this, that's a big plus - there's no "Money for nothin' and chicks for free". Screenshot from Wolfling by Lazycow -Tell me about your creative process while working on From Below? An artist working on somebody else's project couldn't be more happy than having solid guidelines. Matt Hughson had a solid idea, a concept he wanted to build the game around. I only made the ideas into reality. I also had some ideas here and there, but I can say that From Below is Matt's child which I only helped to birth - sorry for the metaphor, occupational disease. This was a simple project with simple work and I liked it a lot. I'd love to work for people like him. -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing From Below? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? The main lesson was that I can be really happy if my only work is drawing. Matt said what to draw and I made it. There wasn't an endless brainstorming, constant changes in the game mechanics, theme change in the middle of a development. It was a simple game, alright, but a joyride for me. You mentioned Wolfing. That was a more complex work but Lazycow put a huge amount of work into that so it could work. Now it's a full C64 game - just as a side note. In conclusion I may be a better artist than a game designer. -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon, NES or otherwise? Any dream projects? I’ve seen some of the updates you’ve posted on Unlikely Adventures and Agent X, any updates on those games? My lovechild would be the Unlikely Adventures, I put so much effort in that, it's a shame that I see it lying there. I'd really love to finish it someday, but I need a programmer who's willing to contribute to that idea, and that's rare because they are as creative minds as game designers - or we "artists". Now I'm working on a smaller project based on some Native American folk tales but it's in an early phase. When we get the demo, maybe we'll see something ambitious. Screenshots from Unlikely Adventures by Zolionline -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? I don't think I'm in the position of giving advice, especially for people who have been in this hobby for ages. But for beginners, I may have two things to say that can be considered. (1) Do what you can do the best and leave the rest to others. There are a lot of people who can do programing, do the art or make sounds and music. If you want to make it all, it will cost you 8-10 years and without feedback you may notice that the whole is wrong somehow. (2) You have the tools that none of the people had in the early times. (Not in the middle ages but in the 80s.) Analyze and watch closely others' work. Learn from online sources. Do everything you can until you'll catch up or you'll see that you set the bar too high. Try to find your place on the scale, there's a huge space between a drawing gorilla and Rembrandt. And even if you are a gorilla, you can still have fun. Thanks for the interview! Tuï @Tui2A03 -Before we dive into From Below, I'd love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to be a musician? What led you to compose music for homebrew games? What is the origin story of Tuï? I started music when I was nine years old by playing saxophone. I choose this instrument because I had a crush on a girl who was playing it. I switched to guitar in high school when some friends introduced me to rock and heavy metal. After some years at university studying math, I took a decision and went to Paris to learn jazz improvisation and composition. I’ve been composing for 15 years now but I’m pretty new in the homebrew scene. I discovered video games at 4 years old on a promotional arcade in a mall and I’m still loving them thirty years later. The lockdown that happened in France last March finally led me to consider writing for that media. Tuï is the name of a New Zealand bird that produces a large variety of bleeps and blops. Ah the Tui, nature’s chiptune composer -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? My influences are really diverse as I listen to a lot a music. Lately I’m more into games OST’s but I listen to rock, electro, jazz, classical music… I try to listen to everything with a fresh ear because in my opinion every genre has good stuff and bad stuff. Regarding video game composers I’m a huge fan of people like Ben Prunty, Chipzel, Jake Kaufmann, Lena Raine or Disasterpeace. Ben Prunty -You’ve also composed chiptune for homebrew games such as Super Tilt Bro. and Flea!, and continue to offer your services to developers in the NESDev community. Tell us more about your work on those games as well as your role in the wider community. Super Tilt Bro, a Super Smash Bros. demake, is a wonderful open-source project by Sylvain Gadrat. I wrote a title screen theme with VRC6 and we plan to add some crazy adaptative music, more to come in the next few months. For Flea! I wrote music for each world and designed all the SFX. It was the first time that I had to write music with the vision of the dev in mind. Alastair Low is a great game designer who knows what he wants and it was a great pleasure to work with him. I see my role in the community as writing good music that gets stuck in your head as long as possible. -What tools do you use to compose, generally as well as for games? My tools are pretty standard: a computer with a DAW, a midi keyboard, a guitar and a bass. For NES games I tend to compose directly on Famitracker with a piano aside to test out things. -Do you feel that your music has any qualities that are quintessentially you? How would you describe your aesthetic? I don’t know if it’s a quality but I’m looking for good melodies. With 4 channels on average, 8-bit era composers had to go for catchy melodies to make a difference. So my aesthetic is whatever comes to my mind and trying to sort out a good melody out of it! -Do you feel your approach to chiptune composition has changed over the years? As I said I’m pretty new to the homebrew community so let’s do this interview again in five or ten years and I’ll tell you. -In your opinion, what is essential to make a chiptune song memorable? …for NES chiptune ? …a great melody! -In addition to your musical work on homebrew games, you created an SFX pack for developers to use in their games. What inspired you to create this tool for developers? To be honest my first concern with this SFX pack was to show devs what I can do. It’s like a demo reel that I offered to the community. I hate to write stuff that won’t be used in an actual game. I preferred to work for free for a few months to prove things than doing stuff that nobody will use. -Tell me about the development of From Below’s music, what is your composition process? It was pretty straight-forward. Matt gave me some words to describe the music he wanted and I worked on it. Matt was pretty happy with the result on title screen theme so we did the same thing with gameplay. -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in your work on From Below? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? The main challenge for me was to write music that is compatible with the Famitone sound engine. It was the first time that I realized the large impact that a sound engine can have on your musical choices. We also had to deal with some bugs when implementing music in the game. I learned that the sound engine and the amount of space you have are the two first questions you should ask a dev before accepting a commission. -How did you first connect with Matt and what was the working dynamic like as you worked together on the game? I met Matt on NESDev Forum. I was looking for people to offer my help on music and build a portfolio. Matt has a professional approach to things that I like a lot. That’s actually how I like to work: fake it until you make it. To me people don’t understand this the right way. To me what it means is that however the size of the project and the budget, do it right. -Is there another project after From Below on the horizon? Another dream project that you hope to bring into existence, NES or otherwise? I’m currently working on Tapeworm Disco, a new puzzle game by Alastair Low. Matt is porting one of his Pico-8 games Witch n’ Wiz on NES and we started to work on music. I don’t have a dream project because I already enjoy what I do, maybe to work on more traditional indie games? Screenshot from Tapeworm Disco Puzzle by Alastair Low -Have you ever considered compiling your chiptune music and releasing it on cartridge albums like Zi with Bleep Bop Records? Not really, in my opinion my tunes need to be in a game and that’s the best I wish for them. -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? I have a confession to make, I don’t play much homebrew games because I don’t have much time to play games these days. But I definitely enjoyed playing Böbl from Morphcat lately, and I’m looking forward to playing Orange Island. -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? A big thank you for this interview and I hope to offer many more tunes to the homebrew community! Syrupneko @syrupneko -Before we talk about From Below, I want to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to be an artist generally, and more specifically how did you break into game art? Growing up, art and writing was always very much a part of my life, and I always had adults around who encouraged me in those skills. Exposure to comic strips is what I’d blame the most though. However it wasn’t a straight shot to the art world for me, as I once thought I had to do the “responsible thing” by settling for a college degree in multimedia with an emphasis on web design, which I saw at the time as a practical compromise between my interest in computers and my passion for art. And during and after college I worked a lot of odd jobs from convenience store clerk to event videographer, portrait photographer, film director and crew member (I’ve got IMDB cred yo!), data entry, audio transcription, phone book and newspaper delivery... As far as game art and development specifically goes, my first taste of gamedev was a hand-me-down Commodore Vic 20 I had in kindergarten (damn straight I learned to read just so I could punch in games from books), but I guess you could say I first saw gamedev as a potential career when I was in middle school. I was making my own mods for Seth Able’s LORD 2 (and later DINK SMALLWOOD) and programming little text adventures in QBASIC. I was also into tabletop RPGs, which lead me to writing my own simplified RPG systems and campaigns to play with my friends. I shelved game development after high school though, due to the changing face of gaming. The emphasis in the early 00s was on 3D graphics, which was intimidating to me as I was really bad at math. But I returned as in recent years gamedev specific tools and IDEs have matured, and 2D has proven itself here to stay. But yeah, I guess you could say learning LUA through Pico-8 not only made gamedev fun again for me in, but showed me that I did have something to offer to indie games after all. Especially after EGGHUNT, my first adventure game for the fantasy console, received a fair amount of positive feedback. Also I'd just like to randomly blurt out that Raspberry Pi has made computing fun again. Screenshot from Egghunt -What is the significance of your syrupneko username and the Syrup Pirates publishing imprint name? Syrup Pirates started as an online zine/club for my friends and I to publish short stories and activism stuff. I was in high school at the time, so I chose the name Syrup Pirates as a parody name of my high school’s mascot, The Syrupmakers (Cairo, GA, was once known for sugarcane fields and syrup manufacturing.) Also, pirates are just cool and outsiderish and carried a connotation related to my interest in technology as my friends and I were obsessed with the movie PIRATES OF SILICON VALLEY (1999) from a few years prior, which is about Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and the early days of Apple and Microsoft; like all young people, we saw ourselves as the protagonists on an adventure. Since then, I've been largely sailing solo as Syrup Pirates has evolved from a zine into the name of my (self) publishing imprint. As for Syrupneko, I used to use various forms of Neko (japanese for cat) in my screen names online, as I identified as an otaku, so I just sort of chose syrupneko to thematically tie myself to my publishing. Now that I’m in my late 30s, I do at times feel like I’ve outgrown it, but I’m sticking with it anyway. Haha. -Who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? I could easily go on forever with this. Generally speaking, I’m big on golden & silver age comics and cartoons – funny animals, Archie and Harvey comics, MAD Magazine, 70s UK girls comics like JINTY and MISTY, Moebius, Omaha the Cat dancer, that sort of stuff. In addition to a lot of indie and alternative comics through the 80s to today, especially 50s to 90s manga. Film-wise, I love horror, classic Hollywood, Italian giallos, Criterion Collection (that’s a genre unto itself right?), David Lynch, Nicholas Winding Refn, Anna Biller, etc. Photographers like William Wegman, Johnny Jewel, William Eggleston, and Alex Prager (her photography is what I aspire to do someday.) Music is a big thing for me too, as I like to imagine soundtracks for my comics, which range in everything my 80s pop, shoegaze, garage rock, twee, to retrowave. Then there’s all the countless gamedevs I follow like Jay Tholen, Manuela Malasana, PuppetCombo and Skydevilpalm...and did I mention the beats and hippies? Because mid-20th century counterculture is definitely an influence. Art by Manuela Malasaña for Cherry Orchard So I’ll just give a shout out to all my artist friends and acquaintances I’ve made along the way that have been a big inspiration and source of motivation: Charles Brubaker, R. Wertz, Sarah Allen Reed, Jadzia Axelrod, Ben Humeniuk, Gonzalo Alvarez, Philip Stephens, WorserBeings, Zack Empire, Max West, Nick Pozega, Jake Price, Nick Richie, Nathan Archer, Jarrod Alberich, and I apologize if I forgot anyone who might be reading this! -Your art spans games, comics, and even photography! Do you feel that your art has any qualities that are uniquely you? How would you describe your aesthetic? It’s hard to pinpoint, so I’ll just give you this list I wrote down one day when I was asking myself the same question: Elements of my style (probably)... * Cinematic angles * Dramatic lighting * Diffusion filters * Neon lights * Chase scenes * Fisticuffs * Pixels * Pizza * Happy accidents * FM Synth * Chiptunes * Walls of Sound * Acid House tldr: My basic tenet is to keep things LOUD AND FUN. -What tools do you use to create your art? I mostly use a Wacom Intuos 4 tablet that I’ve had for the past 10 years (it’s held up nicely and I’ve only to replace the stylus once), Clip Studio Paint with Frenden Brushes, and Photoshop. Sometimes I do work in pen & ink (such as on my latest book, THISTLES #1) which I used just good ol’ Speedball 102 crowquill nib and classic Speedball ink on printer paper for all of the line art. I used to draw on full sized 11x17 paper, but I eventually came to the conclusion that if drawing-to-size was good enough for Crumb and Spiegelman, it’s good enough for me! I also have a sizeable digital library of assets I use in my comics. Stuff like film grains, light leaks, and paper textures. Cover art for Thistles by Jason Payne -Tell me about the development of the art you created for From Below, what is your composition process? Is the creative process different compared to when you create for comics or your own games? At the time, the process was different than my usual work, because I had just bought RetroSupply’s COLOR LAB KIT. Which since buying, I’ve become an absolute fan of every Photoshop brush and action they’ve put out. COLOR LAB is what I used to create the authentic looking CMYK screen tone effect, and I used it to color my new book as well around that same time. Composition wise, I approached the piece from a question of, “whose point of view is the game played?” Which the answer to me was the player’s perspective, so I “placed the camera” on the top of the castle, facing outward toward the ocean. From there, I just built around the scene in such a way that it guides the viewer’s eye around the image in a circular motion. -The box/label art is reminiscent of the art from the popular game Rampart. Are you a fan of old video games? How did you conceive the art that you created for From Below? It's funny, because I didn’t actively have Rampart in mind. And oddly I’ve never played Rampart, although I certainly remember seeing the iconic covers as a kid. The coincidence more or less stems from Matt’s castle theme and my obsession with vintage advertising. I swear, I remember the pointing thing being an “extreme” trope in the 90s. It was everywhere from NERF ads to Capri Sun. I should say though, there are a few Easter Eggs inside the manual of the physical edition of FROM BELOW. Maybe they’re a bit subtle, but if you happen to notice anything resembling an homage, know that you’re not crazy. And to answer your question about whether I’m a fan of old games, I’d say so. Although I haven’t bought any physical carts in recent years, my NES cart collection at last count is around 120 games. And I still own every other main Nintendo system up to the Wii, except for the Virtual Boy. And of course, I bought the more recent mini systems. Portrait of the artist (holding Mario doll) as a young fan -In your opinion what is essential to make cover art compelling? A story. Something that just looks really rad. That makes you wonder what it’s about. I mean, who hasn’t looked at the box-art for PHALANX and created a better game in their head than what it actually was? Who didn’t get duped in to renting really bad games in the 80s, because of the epic box art? I know I have! And how many great games have you passed over because the box art was mediocre or so-so? I unfortunately have done that too. My gold standard for box-art I guess is mid to late 90s RPG box art. I just remember seeing LUNAR for Sega CD on display at Babbage’s and wishing I had a Sega CD (although I did have a Genesis), because that box art really made me “dream” just looking at it. And that feeling stuck with me into the PlayStation era, which luckily I did own one of those for that version. Also of note, I had the same visceral reaction with Chrono Trigger. Babbage’s: that place you didn’t realize turned into GameStop I once read that the founder of Sony said he chose the name Sony because it inspires customers to dream – and to wonder, “what is a Sony?” And Sony’s been around for awhile, so I think dreaming is perhaps the most important thing, because when you inspire dreaming, you invite your audience to actively participate, forming their own opinion, story, mood, feeling. You invite them to dream with you. -What was it like working with Matt and what new challenges or surprises surfaced in your work on From Below? What lessons did you learn that you would like to share with the people who aspire to follow in your footsteps? I think I had started following Matt randomly on Twitter, as I follow a lot of indie devs on there. And one day he tweeted that he was looking for someone to design box art, so I responded sharing some pages from a comic I’d been working on at the time, and things just went from there. It was really fun working with Matt. He was organized and had a vision for what he wanted, but while he guided much of the process, he was still very open to the spirit of collaboration. And as such, I believe we created something that neither of us would have created on our own, which is one of the best feelings you can have when working with others. If there’s a lesson to be taken from that, it’s that if someone’s working on something rad that interests you and you feel like you have something to offer them, don’t be afraid to offer your services. And just be open to collaboration, because it will also benefit your personal work when you return to it. Having an openness to experience is the key here. -What else have you been working on lately? Do you have any dream projects you aspire to? I just published the inaugural issue of my new anthology series THISTLES a couple months ago, and have been slowly developing new material for a 2nd issue. The series explores personal themes of identity, gender, and relationships through a lens of European and Celtic folk tales, astrology, tarot, feminism, and Jungian psychology. It’s weird. It’s cartoony. It’s psychedelic. If you want more of what you saw with the FROM BELOW art, then pick it up! I also launched a new series called Cupcake Cabal, which has had kind of a false start. I hope to get back to it soon though. You can follow @cupcakecabal on Insta and Twitter to stay updated for when it does get updated. Panels from Cupcake Cabal by Jason Payne My main passion project though is PRINCEZZ. Which began in 2003, and I’m currently halfway through illustrating the 2nd book. It’s an epic funny animal adventure story about a princess who’s an outlaw. I don’t know how to describe it easily, however I think one of my fans put it best when they wrote that it “combines Quentin Tarantino’s gritty characters with Three Stooges slapstick.” Which sounds about right to me. You can read Princezz every Monday at PrincezzComic.com Sounds like Princezz is ready to roll Dream project-wise...I’ve got a lot of those. Haha. But I’ll divulge that I’d like to get back in to film to write and direct a live-action adaptation of PRINCEZZ starring humans instead of animals. Also, I bet I could make a killer film adaptation of my tabletop game KILLER IS NEAR. This movie isn't even in pre-production and already I need someone to hold my hand -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? Yes! I backed Orange Island last year and can’t wait for its eventual release. Everything they’ve shared about that game so far has been rad! And you know, I mentioned earlier that "visceral reaction" that good box art can cause...I had to with this Orange Island's ad campaign. Seriously don't skimp out on art, even if it seems incidental and won't reflect in game style or quality. But yeah, I love cute platformers and Legacy Of the Wizard is one of my favorite games, so I'm looking forward to this. -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? Thank you for your interest and support! It always means a lot to me. Just believe in yourself, and take your time on projects, because self-care should come first. And of course, thank you, Sean, for taking the time to interview me! It really made my day that you asked if I would do this. Conclusion: Thanks for tuning in to this latest episode of a series that probes the depths beneath the waves of code of your favorite new homebrews. What are your thoughts on From Below and its talented development team? What homebrews are you eagerly looking forward to? Perhaps you’ll see it here soon when…A Homebrew Draws Near! Command?
  23. Deadeye

    Brew Talk

    Brew Talk tonight on Discord. A group of brewers will be showing off their projects with a Q and A to follow. Open to all to attend. Pop into the Brew Talk video / voice channel.
  24. 600+ Backers with Tons of Time Left! Thanks so much for all the support for Trophy, the new NES game created by Gradual Games and and published by The 6502 Collective. Get In On The Action Here: Trophy is a brand-new action platformer for the original NES! Take control of the robot Trophy in this exciting new homebrew game. Save the peaceful planet of Gearus 9 from the evil machinations of Lord Q as you run, jump, and blast your way to victory. Collect power-ups along the way and defeat some of the largest bosses ever seen on the NES! The earliest imaginings of what would become Trophy lie in the mind of a twelve year old Derek Andrews, and more than twenty years later the world can finally see the results. The retro scene is filled with examples of faux 8-bit games (many of them quite excellent!), but Trophy was developed for the NES, a true 8-bit tour de force. As with all of Gradual Games’ NES projects, it was programmed from the ground up in 6502 assembly language, along with using custom tools developed by Andrews for the project. With over ten years of programming experience for the NES, Trophy blazes new territory in the homebrew scene, pushing the technological limits of the NES in ways not seen since the heyday of the licensed era! This process took over three years, and is a true labor of retro love that shines forth in all aspects of the game. Trophy is 100% finished and is being published by The 6502 Collective in both physical and digital form.
  25. A Homebrew Draws Near! A blog series by @Scrobins Episode 10: Space Raft Introduction: Followers of this series have frequently read about brewers developing games inspired by the classics of their youth, such as Mega Man, Super Mario Bros., and The Legend of Zelda. But we have yet to dip into our guiltier pleasures: the games lovingly inspired by the likes of LJN, with just as much heart poured in as any other homebrew I’ve covered. What if a homebrew emulated licensed game adaptations to deliver its own merchandise, a game that revels in creative silliness and a special layer of inside jokes for the fans best situated to appreciate them? If you didn’t know a thing about Milwaukee or the music of one of its most devoted sons before playing this game, you might find this to be a good first taste of both, and it tastes a lot like chicken sandwiches. It’s deliciously camp! For this entry, I’m covering Space Raft: a hybrid top-down action/arcade and scrolling obstacle-avoiding driving game developed by Jordan Davis of the Milwaukee-based indie rock band Space Raft in loving homage to the blatant cash grabs of licensed properties of old. As of the time of this writing, initial Kickstarter backers have received copies of the game, and the rom and physical cartridge is available from Dusty Medical Records here. Development Team: @Raftronaut (Jordan Davis): programming & music Space Raft: The CIB Game Evolution: Space Raft has its origin in its namesake band, and the accompanying music expressing the soul of a Wisconsin city that spans years. However Space Raft: The Game can trace its history to March 9, 2019, when Jordan shared an early demo of Space Raft to the NESmaker forum. Early encouragement and feedback helped Jordan get his demo across the finish line for the 2019 NESmaker Byte-Off Competition. Screenshot from the Space Raft demo as submitted to the 2019 NESmaker Byte-Off Competition In the following months, Jordan continued to polish his game, preparing it for its eventual release. On July 22, 2020, Jordan launched a crowdfunding campaign for Space Raft on Kickstarter, showing off the finished game and the additional goodies also available for backers. In addition to the rom-only, cart-only, and CIB options, backer tiers included a green/gold special edition CIB, a commemorative t-shirt designed by Ella Warren, a special edition cassette of the band’s latest album Positively Space Raft (featuring a chiptune version of the album on the B-side), a vinyl LP of Positively Space Raft, and plenty of other tiers mixing and matching all that swag. Within 15 hours, Space Raft had met its initial funding goal of $4,800, but by the end of its campaign a total of 235 backers ultimately pledged more than $14,000, breaking through some of the campaign’s stretch goals including a full color foldout poster for all CIB and special edition backers. The alt text generated for this image (with medium confidence apparently) was "a group of men posing for a photo" Gameplay Overview: Space Raft describes itself as a hybrid side-scrolling driving/actiony arcade game, or as Jordan describes it: a hybrid driving/space rafting game. You play as Space Raft, rockin’ and rollin’ through the streets of Milwaukee on your way to the Cactus Club for your next show. Unfortunately things aren’t all rock music and chicken sandwiches. Word on the street is former bandmate Srini is back in town and he’s looking to steal the master tapes of Space Raft’s latest record. Taking advantage of each band member’s unique talents, you must navigate the city, eat all the sandwiches, stop Srini, and release Positively Space Raft to your adoring public. As previously mentioned, the game can be neatly divided into two types of levels: side-scrolling driving and top-down arcade action. During the driving stages, you drive the van around the city, collecting sandwiches and avoiding obstacles, using the B button to blast music notes that clear a path forward. For the arcade stages, you help friends whose establishments have been overrun by Srini. Srini is the villain. So? You must collect all the sandwiches/hot dogs inside before Srini or any minions can hurt you. Don’t worry, you can defeat lesser enemies and temporarily stun Srini while you collect food, or even grab a cup of coffee for a brief berserker mode. During the arcade levels you can alternate between the members of Space Raft by hitting A, taking advantage of their varied attacks (with the B button, duh) and life meters. Ready to join the band? Jon (blue) is the bassist, and while he has 3 hit points, his punch attack has the shortest range. Tyler (green) is the drummer, so it makes sense he has the booming bomb attack with his 2 hit point life meter. Jordan (yellow) is the singer and guitarist who clearly burns the most energy across his multiple roles, more so now that he has a flame thrower attack and also has a 2 hit point life meter. Tjay (red) plays the keyboard, and though he has the strong and far-reaching bowling ball attack, you’ll want to be mindful of his 1 hit point. Portrait of the artists as 8-bit men Writer’s Review: Space Raft is a fun rock ‘n roll adventure that channels the nostalgia of the simpler games from the NES’ earlier years. And that is by no means a mark against it; Jordan set out to make a game reminiscent of blatant cash grabs, so the key to appreciating Space Raft is within that context. Gameplay is straightforward and easy to learn, allowing players to enjoy the stages’ cartoony ambiance, from a van shooting music notes at seagulls to running around and picking up food while a knocked-over Srini helplessly kicks his legs in the air. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear there was a Space Raft TV show circa 1986 that featured episode after episode of this zany rock goodness. Don’t get complacent though, because while the controls are easy to learn, the difficulty notches up considerably. In-between stages are cutscene conversations between Space Raft’s current and former members, partly to advance the story, but mostly to add another layer of Jordan’s brand of humor while showing off his 8-bit portraiture talents. And if it allows me to draw parallels between yet another homebrew and Dick Tracy, I’m all for it. In the original version of the game, Breathless Mahoney just yells “Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” The game’s simple gameplay allows other facets of Space Raft to shine through, particularly its soundtrack and immense 8-bit take on Milwaukee. One of my favorite experiences about homebrew has been learning about chiptune and the massive following its has developed, even beyond gaming. Chiptune composers are talented musicians on par with anything you might hear over the radio, squeezing more pathos out of the square channel than some musicians can with a full orchestra. Space Raft demonstrates how Jordan is talented in both traditional music and chiptune. The game’s soundtrack is not just a handful of chiptune tracks layered on top of a game; Jordan took the music of Space Raft, brimming with its own history and personality, and layered a game on top of that sound, which happens to be an adaptation of their latest album. As an album, Space Raft carries a momentum to its story that makes me want to continue playing so I can reach the next track at the next stage. And because I knew the soundtrack was adapted from Positively Space Raft, I couldn’t resist listening to the original album after playing (which is what I’m jamming out to as I write this post). The Cactus Club as depicted in Space Raft And with each new arcade level, it is fun to explore Milwaukee and learn about its musical landmarks. As someone who has not yet visited Milwaukee, the people and venues with cameos in Space Raft go over my head, but that feature of the game isn’t intended for me. That is a love letter to the Milwaukee music scene meant for the die-hard locals who were instrumental to Space Raft’s formation and rise, and it’s touching to see that kind of devotion that thanks and celebrates the people behind the band. Even if you’ve never visited the Cactus Club or Humboldt Park, it is apparent what a labor of love this game is that Jordan would feature so much of Space Raft’s soul. I might have to plan a trip to Milwaukee just to see some of these places in-person, and maybe catch a Space Raft concert (and get the band to sign my chest…er, I mean my CIB). Who else is ready for the return of concerts? Interview: To learn more about Space Raft: The Game and Space Raft: The Band, I spoke with the Raftronaut himself, Jordan Davis. In retrospect I wished I had asked why Space Raft was a van and not an actual raft as might be defined by a nautical dictionary. Oh well, spilled milk. Raftronaut @0000jordan -Before we dive into Space Raft: The Game, I would love to talk about you and your background. What first inspired you to become a musician? What is the origin story of the band Space Raft, and how did you become the Raftronaut? I was raised in Wisconsin, mostly in Green Bay, lived in Milwaukee as a child. I started my first punk bands when I was very young, about age 14 or 15. Green Bay is a really small town, but we had an excellent all-ages punk rock club throughout the 90’s called the Concert Café which was hugely influential as far as giving me a glimpse of life outside my small world at the time. I remember always wanting to play music but trying to convince my parents I was serious was another issue. I was really influenced early on by my dad’s Beach Boys cassettes and other surf guitar comps I had access to. My first memory of the guitar is likely hearing Wipe Out or Walk Don’t Run, but it may have also been Chuck Berry. Hey Space, Space! It’s your cousin Marvin…Marvin Raft?! Anyway, I always wanted to play guitar as far back as my memory goes, but it wasn’t until years later upon hearing Nirvana that I really wanted to write a song. I had gotten my first guitar right around that time. Catching the video to Come as You Are at a friend’s house on MTV instantly changed my life forever. It was my seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan moment. That experience sent me scurrying to the record stores to ask questions about records and pour through punk zines looking for punk answers to my punk questions. Shortly after I was working to put my own band together, by about 16 I had a garage punk band called Mystery Girls that stayed together around 8-9 years, released 3 LPs, a handful of 45 singles, spent a lot of my early young-adulthood on tour in the US and Canada. I learned a lot about who I was during that time. Album art from Mystery Girls’ Something in the Water Fast forward to 2013, I had been writing soundtrack music for my friend Brian’s Monster film based in Milwaukee which eventually got canceled. The music got scrapped and used for other things Brian was working on, but I was sitting on a bunch of songs meant for interior music played inside Milwaukee rock clubs. Figuring I could use this loosely associated material to form a rock band seemed feasible. I knew I needed a keyboardist as I had been writing exclusively at the piano. Someone that could handle a wide range of styles but also somebody who I could spend a lot of time with. Enter Tjay who I had been recently introduced to when asking around for musicians. Tjay suggested his friend Tyler on drums, I brought my friend Colin (and shortly after Srini) for bass and we had a rehearsal/introduction in my basement. It was immediately apparent that the band had chemistry. That pretty much became my life for the next 6 years. The band is pretty damn goofy when the mics are off, making wise cracks, playing practical jokes, and tossing around awful puns hence the name Space Raft. So Raftronaut was just something Srini said referring to our fan base while rhyming with Astronaut. Years later when trying to decide on my username for the NESdev forum I just went with that as it made sense for my project… bad puns… -You’ve told an interesting story about how you were inspired by a chiptune rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” that was included on the Goonies II NES game. Tell us more about what first inspired you to become a homebrewer and chiptune composer. Yeah, so I love movies, I soak them up like a sponge, movies that I love I will watch on repeat while doing chores or menial tasks. I’ve done that for years, so I probably had watched the Goonies on VHS 100 times before I got the NES game for Xmas in 88’. I had memorized that Cyndi Lauper song from the credits sequence. VHS credits sequences offered my other access to music besides my Walkman, If I liked a song or theme in a film I would listen to it over and over to try and absorb it. Hearing the reductionist chiptune version of the Goonies theme was a revelatory experience for me, picking apart the differences happening between the three pitched channels of audio helped me understand the fundamental differences between melody, harmony, and bass. Once we had an NES that became just another vehicle for me to absorb music, and since I was too young to be buying my own records, listening to the music on carts became an early obsession. Goonies II, Simons Quest, and Mega Man 2 were big influences, but a few years later Silver Surfer along with Skate or Die II made a huge impact on me. Around that time my mom found a working Gameboy in the lost and found at work and gave it to me. It came with a Navy Seals cartridge, a horrible film game with incredible music by Mathew Cannon. I would literally listen to that on my headphones while I mowed the lawn. I guess that is where I became aware of the C64 Euro school of composers that included Tim Follin, Jeroen Tel, and Alberto Gonzalez. That sort of deep and throaty chiptune sound always impressed me. Hearing quality music like that struck a curious note in me along with all the great melodic writing coming from Japan, you could have this really thick sound design behind it as well. Since starting my project, some of my favorites have included Jeroen Tel’s Alien 3 and highlights from Gonzalez’ Smurfs soundtrack. That stuff holds up incredibly well today. Shatterhand, Gradius 2 Gofer no yabou, and Mother have been a few from Japan that I’ve been really into lately. I really appreciate both styles. Jeroen Tel -In terms of both music and gaming, who are your influences? And whose work are you watching closely now? I’m weird, my tastes jump all over the place. Most of my formative punk rock influences came from the Velvet Underground and Iggy Pop’s band the Stooges. I really love British Invasion bands like the Kinks, The Zombies, and the Pretty Things, but also have a deep appreciation for the early Heavy Metal pioneers like Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, and Funkadelic. Due to the early Beach Boys influence I have a soft spot for chamber pop like Harry Nilsson and Phil Spector, but then am pretty knowledgeable about folk music as well. From the Carter Family and Earnest Tubb to Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, John Lee Hooker, and Muddy Waters. Beyond that I tend to listen to stuff off the beaten path. Lately I’ve been transfixed by Ryuichi Sakamoto, Kate Bush, Blondie, and Philip Glass. Ryuichi Sakamoto My interest in gaming is pretty specific to the NES, but also includes some interest in old arcade games and indie arcade platforms. I tend to really enjoy arcade shmups overall, I like Xevious, Asteroids and Centipede. My favorite NES games are Gradius and Mega Man 2, though as an adult I tend to like stuff like Gun Nac, Gyruss, and Solar Jetman. I really like the Famicom stuff I’ve discovered in my research like Mother (Earthbound Zero), Twin Bee 3, and Crisis Force. MOSTLY, I would consider my biggest influences to be homebrew. The idea of DIY game creation extending the lifespan of my favorite console provides a refreshing place for self-expression and creativity. Plus, the idea of DIY releases is so punk rock to me. My personal favorite NES homebrews include Brad Smith’s phenomenally bizarre Lizard. Project Blue by Toggleswitch, Frankengraphics and M-Tee, Twin Dragons by Broke Studios, and Haradius Zero by Impact Soft. As far as indie arcade I just love Killer Queen, as well as Cosmotron. As of the time of this writing, Jordan holds the #2 spot on the VGS Homebrew Leaderboard for Haradius Zero -What tools do you use to code and compose for games as well as conventional music? For NES music I do everything in Famitracker, I hear good things about Famistudio, but after a couple years of using Famitracker I am pretty much set in my ways. I just use my typing keyboard and map out the harmonies in my head and type them into the tracker roll. It’s a fairly non intuitive method to compose music, but I actually find that separating myself from a musical keyboard helps me think outside the box. I like the distraction of having my hands tied away from my standard scales and chord voicings. Sometimes I will cheat and look at a picture of a piano. For Conventional music, I generally only need to record myself in order to demo my songs for the band, which means recording a bare bones version to illustrate the general arrangement. For that, I tend to use my trusty old Tascam portastudio cassette 4-track. I am good at using it, I can set it up quickly when an idea comes to me which is valuable when trying to capture my often erratic creativity. I tend to write music at my piano, so I can plan out bass and melody at the same time. I have several battered vintage keyboards like Rhodes Electric piano and a Farfisa organ that I have taught myself how to play over the years. Then I will usually add a vocal and maybe a harmony. Lastly, I’ll add a guitar, the instrument I am most familiar with so it feels like an afterthought in my arrangement, preferring always to be just slightly outside of my comfort zone when doing anything creative. That is where the adventure is. -The music from the game’s soundtrack comes from the band’s latest album that you converted to chiptune. Tell me about the development of Space Raft’s game music, what is your composition process? Is the creative process different compared to when you compose more traditional music? The album in question “Positively Space Raft” was an attempt on my part to write a more concise “pop” album using the band’s existing heavy rock template. Something that would be more in the spirit of some of my favorite heavy guitar pop bands like Badfinger, BigStar, Nazz, and the Raspberries. Somehow in my mind when dreaming up my crystalized pop influences, Cyndi Lauper’s “Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” got lumped in there. As the chiptune version of it represented in my mind the bubblegum of my youth. I spent a good two years writing and rehearsing that LP with the band, every week refining material and rearranging with the band, by the time we finished recording it I was half crazy. Tjay had recently sold me his secondhand computer (my first in nearly a decade) so that I could use it to continue writing more demos. However, in my sort of creative delirium decided to search chiptune keyboard sounds so I could make a faux chiptune version of one of our songs for a laugh. The band all thought it was hilarious and encouraged me to make more, so I found a simple website program called beepbox which offers a simple interface for creating generic 4 channel chiptune. After 2 weeks I had finished what I called “Approximately Space Raft”. An entire recreation of the album in chiptune. At that point, I really had no idea how to present it to people. I thought it would be funny to release a cassette tape and replace the B side with chiptunes of the same album (which I eventually did with my Kickstarter). Deep down, I recognized that the reason I was having so much fun discovering chiptune is that I legitimately wanted to make a game, and I knew that we would soon be in need of merch, so the two interests quickly merged together. Album art for Space Raft’s Positively Space Raft -Is your creative process for writing the game’s code similar to your approach to the soundtrack? I had never made a game before, I’ve never really owned a computer for any length of time that would have allowed me to learn how. The game came out of an amorphous blob in my imagination that I was able to whittle down over time. I knew I wanted a game that featured the band’s music, but I had no idea what I wanted other than that. I threw myself back into the NES library with a passion trying to remember what I liked vs. what I did not. I downloaded emulators, ordered USB controllers, took endless notes, and really tried to imagine what my perfect game would be. Of course, I didn’t have any skills, so I thought it best to dial it back and focus on what I was CAPABLE of versus my perfect idea. Even starting the artwork took months and months of trial and error. I had discovered Shiru’s NES Screen Tool after hearing it mentioned on an episode of the Assembly Line Podcast. I’ve heard of them. I learned how to make basic pixel shapes and learned what I could/couldn’t do with my current skill set. I tried desperately to muddle through the Nerdy Nights tutorials, but found that assets came more naturally to me than programming. Right around that time is when I found NESmaker which provided me with a valuable jump between having ideas and struggling to make anything happen and having ideas and actually seeing something on screen. I had gone through the Nerdy Nights tutorials but admittedly did not retain much of it. NESmaker gave me an alternate way to poke at the assembly language code that was easier for me to understand. -You’ve mentioned in other interviews that you taught yourself to code with the help of the NESmaker community. What lessons can you share to others who want to learn to make their own games? Get in and get dirty. If you have an idea then take it to the trenches. Ask the people that know and don’t let up until you understand their answers. I’ve mentioned the NESmaker community proudly because people like Dale Coop, Mugi, Drexegar, and Jorodroid have all taken time out to help coach me on a number of issues. Specifically, Dale Coop has been so incredibly important to this project, I’ve credited him as lead programmer on the game. Without his involvement, I would not have been able to pull off even half the amount of content I was able to include. More importantly, we became good friends in the process. His friendship and wisdom have become invaluable to me, which serves to show the hidden benefits of following your passion. -Speaking of the NESmaker community, you are a prominent member who has helped other developers with their games, such as Dale and Seiji’s KUBO 3. Tell us more about your work on that game as well as your role in the wider community. Yeah, so realizing the bridge it served for myself to get involved in the greater homebrew community I try to cheerlead where I can and add to the cycle of positive influence. Dale had reluctantly asked me if I would be interested in doing music on KUBO3, but I jumped at the chance to contribute to their family project. Dale had already been so incredibly patient and helpful with me learning my way around, inspiring me to have more patience elsewhere in my life. So yeah, I was honored to be asked to participate. He recorded and sent me a phone message of Seiji humming a melody he wrote to serve as the title music, so I arranged it with bass and drums harmony, then filled the remainder of the soundtrack with more tunes. It was actually quite fun to put together and am really very proud of the both of them for how far they’ve pushed the game out into the world. It’s hard enough to actually make something, but harder yet to get people to pay attention to it. So bravo SJ games! This one sounds familiar too… Other than that, there are a lot of talented people coming into homebrew from that scene. I did music for a short game called Ramen Adventure about a noodle eating cat by a wonderful illustrator named Pit that I am really excited to share with people. (Rom should be out soon, maybe now?) I’ve also done about five or six soundtracks for other NESmaker projects or demos this year. I definitely specialize in sound for that community. -In addition to your musical work on video games, you perform live (before the pandemic). Does your experience performing provide inspiration for future music? Yes. I personally feel like experience affects all things creative, your voice is essentially your cumulative lived experience. I’ve spent a lot of time on stages playing music around the world. Meeting people that have shaped my creative ambitions but also fuel my outlook on life. I tend to bring the whole package to the table when I approach any new project. -Do you feel that Space Raft: The Band as well as Space Raft: The Game have any qualities that are quintessentially you? How would you describe your aesthetic? Yes, absolutely. I am deadly serious about every decision I make in any creative endeavor, however I prefer to do so with a playful improvisational touch. I love toying with a state of confusion in any of my work, probably because it is a state I enjoy being in myself. Sometimes I feel like I engage with nonsense simply so I can have more nonsense around. Life can be pretty stuffy and disappointing sometimes, so I prefer to mix it up with a little friendly chaos. I’m sure it is related to just how much Monty Python and Andy Kaufmann I absorbed when I was a kid. My aesthetic? Well…… I certainly have a fascination with the 1970’s. Record covers make up a big part of my overall idea of what amazing artwork looks like, but that can run the gamut from Blue Note jazz photography to Hipgnnosis surrealism. The lasting cultural impact of the early Atari years has had a big effect on me. I never had a 2600, but finding a friend’s parent’s gigantic Atari collection buried in a closet resulted in an epic weekend of digging through carts 25 years ago that has never left me. Likely Atari made some of the first arcade cabinets I was exposed to and has always been at the center of what I’d consider retro cool. Hawkwind is really a big piece of the puzzle as well …I’m Just a Huuuuuge Hawkwind fan and somehow my love of that band is all tangled up with the NES, I try to add a touch of Hawkwind to anything I do on it. It’s an indescribable creative correlation I’ve made in my weird imagination. It probably has to do with the repetition of Motorik music and the relationship to machine music. I’m also big fan of European comics like those found in England and France in the 70’s and 80’s in magazines like Metal Hurlant, 2000 AD and Warrior. That stuff features some of my favorite science fiction and a lot of prominent work by my favorite Illustrator Jean Giraud (moebius) from France. As an American those comics were always really hard to find, so they sort of defined my intertest in obscure futuristic visual art. Illustration by Jean Giraud -At the heart of Space Raft’s gameplay are the various landmarks and icons of Milwaukee. What inspired you to devote such detail to your hometown? There are a few reasons for that which all fed into my design goals for the project. First, my original vision was to create a piece of unique merch that the band could sell at shows. That naturally led to including a lot of our friends that are important to the band, like our former bassist Srini and the head of our label Kevin. Second, I really hadn’t done any sort of visual art in roughly 20 years, at first I found approaching pixel art to be really daunting, so I decided to start by attempting to draw the Cactus Club here in Milwaukee. A venue that often served as home base for the band. At one point all 4 current members of the band worked there. The famed Cactus Club, presumably before Srini ransacks it in the game It’s an institution in Milwaukee for the independent music scene. For many years it felt like our living room as we all lived within maybe 6-10 blocks from there. Anyway, drawing out features of the Club really gave me some confidence to draw other locations known to be important to the band. That just became the central theme. Including our friends felt natural as well. Milwaukee has always been a city loaded with talent but continually stuck between the larger markets of Minneapolis and Chicago. Spreading the word about the merits of the community here became a secondary design goal of the game. Essentially becoming an 8-bit love letter to Milwaukee’s music scene, and Wisconsin at large. -You wrote something on your Kickstarter page that really conjured an image for me: that the game “attempts to recapture the idea of art as marketing and turn it back into art once again.” This makes me think of music clubs from the 70s, 80s, and 90s with walls covered in band’s stickers and posters layered on top of each other over the years. Do you feel like this game is Space Raft’s expansion of that vibe into a new medium? Do you think more bands should consider following suit? I had a lofty goal early on with the project to try and articulate the communication prism that occurred in early film to game tie-ins. Something about the construction of those mostly bad games is endlessly fascinating to me. Films being produced in America were somehow broken down and pitched to Japanese developers who grabbed at film ideas and exaggerated them to turn them into game ideas, then sent it back through the pipeline to be localized back into English for North American and European audiences. Like an insane game of telephone but with Nintendo games. To me this resulted in some fairly ludicrous content, some of which is objectively bad, but others could be considered inspired. For example, in Namco’s Star Wars for the Famicom, Darth Vader turns into a scorpion in level one. It’s baffling, but also amazing and sort of illustrates the obvious plot errors given the communication pipeline of that time. Another example is the weird creatures you find in Goonies II. A polar bear? A mermaid? Is that a bobcat/scorpion? WTF? It’s pure fever dream and I love it. Recognizing that all those film tie-ins were purely created for marketing reasons, it struck me that if someone had made those game design choices based purely on creative reasons I would be immeasurably impressed. I decided to use the cultural landscape of Milwaukee and inside jokes from the band to create a mise en scene that would have no direct correlation for players outside of the area. I did this intentionally, hoping that some players will not understand every detail and instead the setting would simply serve as a similar cultural prism to that which we as North Americans viewed games coming from Japan in the 1980’s. But to answer your question more specifically, yeah, I created this game to serve as merch for the band, to be laid out on tables along with LP records in dark clubs with dark walls covered in concert posters and band stickers. It’s an environment that I live and breathe in, so I would consider it an inherent aspect of my project. As far as other bands following suit, yeah, I’d always encourage people to think outside of the box. If that includes making an NES game then I would give you my full support. Bands have a much harder task in today’s music industry. Record labels have been all but crippled since the era of streaming, so literally the only thing making most bands solvent are live shows and merch. Bands need to function as mini independent businesses in order to survive which requires a lot more than simply turning up the volume and making some noise. 95% of independent bands need to handle their own booking, promotion, marketing, video editing, sound production, creative writing, layouts and visual design, t-shirt textile screen printing, rehearsal schedules, social media, PR interviews, (lol) van maintenance etc… Years ago even modest independent labels would have some resources to help handle all those aspects of running a band. These days you’ve got to be able to wear a lot of hats to pull it off. On a final note about bands and multimedia, my idea is certainly not new. The band Journey had that Atari 2600 cart, Aerosmith had the Revolution X arcade game, the Japanese heavy metal band Seikema II released a Famicom cartridge in 1986 called “Seikima II Akuma no Gyakushū!” The idea of turning your band into IP isn’t new, but my project may be the first time something like this has occurred on what would otherwise be considered retro hardware. One of my personal favorite arcade games -What new challenges or surprises surfaced in developing Space Raft? Nothing about making this game came easily to me. I struggled day and night on defining what exactly I would want people to get out of it. How I would develop the skills necessary to accomplish it, and how I could balance all my design goals while working within the limitations of the NES console. I have absolutely no background in any sort of game creation or graphics creation so I had to bite off little chunks to focus on before I could start fitting the pieces of the puzzle back together. One of the more daunting challenges for me was writing the script for the game. I’ve never done any sort of dramatic writing. I do a lot of creative writing involved in my songwriting process, but that mostly involves poetry or prose. Writing a narrative with dialogue and a beginning, middle, and end was a big hurdle I had to overcome. I had a list of jokes I wanted to include, a list of characters I’d wanted to give lines to, but no real narrative with which to stitch it all together. Around that time in the development I took a road trip with my dear friend (and ex Space Raft bassist) Srini to help his family move a new car cross country. That gave us some valuable time to riff on ideas. He suggested that he be the villain of the game, he has a way of playing up his own hysteria for laughs, he’ll happily play the villain if everyone is in on the joke. Later when I was finalizing my script I did a video conference with him where we read through the script so I could ensure that he felt comfortable with the way he was depicted in the game. He was heavily involved in crafting the basic premise. Keep in mind, the whole thing feels like a total farce and has a very nonsensical plot… but that first step is often the hardest. I would have a much easier time approaching writing a script now after having this experience. -Ordinarily this is when I would ask whether there are reflections of yourself in the game’s protagonist, but you are literally in the game with your bandmates. So instead I’ll ask: how did you decide on the appearances and abilities of each member of Space Raft in the game? This is actually an odd territory for me to be in. I really wasn’t interested in making a game about myself per se, but more or less one built on the IP that my friends and I have created. I first settled on having all the gameplay take place in the van, serving as a mascot representation of the band itself rather than the individual members. But that got a little boring once I put it together and struggled to bring any diversity to the gameplay. I dug into the NES library for examples of games featuring a cast of playable characters to study how their ideas played out. TMNT, Friday the 13th, G.I. Joe, Little Samson, T&C Surf Designs all provided valuable insight into how I would implement different characters and make them feel unique. Incidentally, I had been playing a lot of StarTropics while studying graphics and I stumbled upon the idea of replacing different items in an adventure game instead with characters with different abilities. From there, I started fleshing out ideas that would suit the personality of each band member and assigned a color to each member. Tjay’s was easy, he is a very good bowler and competes at the state championship level. The rest of the abilities were chosen based on how much room I had for graphics balanced with band member personality. I went through several ideas, but workshopping it with Dale Coop helped solidify the final results. -How have your bandmates held up since the band was “called back to their home planet”? Have they had any role or provided any insights into the game over the course of its development? Everybody is healthy and doing well. The band provided a lot of insight into the game throughout the process, but it was mainly something I worked on solo. I had 4 prototype carts during development that I would use to cycle early builds to them to collect feedback. I made a lot of changes based on their input, but also made a lot of design choices to embrace their sensibilities rather than just trying to satisfy my own. I have to give those guys a lot of credit for inspiring me to take this project on, there was a time a few years back where we were between records, we didn’t have much to rehearse so we wound up sitting in Tjay’s basement playing Nintendo and just hanging out. Before that, video games had not been a big part of my life for 15-20 years outside of Galaga machines I would run into at music venues. It was really Jon’s influence and love of games that reintroduced me to that world. He moved into an apartment down the street from me, soon we were spending hours in the evening playing Tecmo Bowl and trash talking. It was Jon that soon after discovered the existence of hacked cartridges with updated rosters on them. Anybody that grew up in Wisconsin playing Tecmo Super Bowl will describe the pure heartache of attempting to control the awful Green Bay Packers team that was represented there. Hearing the Green Bay team could be redeemed in classic Tecmo Bowl was a revelation. But more so, knowing there were people out there capable of inserting new information into an NES cart blew my mind. Jon would buy those cheap pirate multicarts and bring them to Tjay’s on nights where we’d be hanging out and we’d pour through obscure (to us) Famicom titles like Door Door, Chack N Pop, and Nuts N Milk and laugh, drink and talk. Those simplistic designs gave me a lot of courage that I could create something worthwhile myself. The band provided the context that I could create it with. So I credit those guys for helping me find my calling in that regard, it all just felt natural. -There has been a lot of support and enthusiasm for Space Raft, having blown through its initial funding goal on Kickstarter. How does it feel to see so many people excited for your game? To be honest I was a little shell shocked. I had done my research and followed some light guidelines for raising awareness about my project early with social media. I did as much as possible to prepare me for a month of fundraising to hit my goal, but I hit my goal within 15 hours of launch. That honestly left me slightly underprepared for what to do with the rest of my campaign. All the major print news sources in Milwaukee ran pieces about the game during the campaign and helped to spread the word. My target audience for this game were record collectors like me who may have inherent interest in other old things like the NES and would appreciate an oddball cross-platform experiment. What I had failed to understand is that there was a lot more interest in the NES (and Milwaukee) than I had imagined. Just to be able to facilitate someone else’s continued enjoyment of the NES is really a reward in itself. My hope was that my project might inspire people to want to check out more NES homebrew projects, or you know, make their own. Further, I’d like to see a situation where people think of these old consoles not as inferior hardware, but as valid tools for communicating ideas. I think of the state of the analog synthesizer in the 1990’s when it was discarded for newer and shinier (ok fine, more stable) digital keyboards. The sounds became more predictable and people started to lust after the interactive knobs, unwieldy oscillators, and warm musical filters of the old boards. Now people understand the value of the limitations that analog synthesizers provide, they’re considered legitimate platforms once again, right alongside those shiny new digital units. So as a personal goal, I aim to increase the presence of the NES as a valid platform for self-expression. -Are there any other projects you have lined up on the horizon, NES or otherwise? Any dream projects? Collaborations? Yes for sure. My first order of business once the Space Raft cartridges ship is redesigning the game for Arcade. We have a local Punk Venue/Arcade called Xray Arcade that procured a battered old Xenophobe cabinet that had been converted into a Golden Tee sometime in the 90’s. They’re going to strip it and change the controls so we can install a working version of Space Raft Arcade to live permanently at the venue. I will need to make several changes in order to make it work in an arcade setting, so I plan on doing a remix and offering it as more of a new chapter based on similar ideas. So the arcade version will be a new experience, which is actually an odd place to be, porting a home game back to the arcade. So currently my plan is to finish the remix and prepare the cabinet and marquee artwork for whenever it is safe to host people in arcades again. Concept art created by Jordan for Candelabra: The Tenth Knight I’ve recently reconciled my relationship with Sly Dog Studios after a public disagreement. I’m producing graphics for his sequel to Candelabra: Estoscerro called The Tenth Knight. I’ve been contributing graphics for a KHAN games project in the pipeline as well. I am enjoying doing collaborations at the moment, specializing in assets is purely within my comfort zone, but it’s nice having the chance to focus on one aspect of game design and practice making improvements to my skills. I have a few other personal projects in mind that I might work on in the future, but honestly collaborating currently allows me the time to develop the skills necessary to actually achieve some of my other game design goals, so I am happy to be gathering more experience this way. I had briefly discussed working on another collaboration with Dale Coop at some time in the future. He and I get along very well and I am always happy to work on something that he is interested in. Recently. I wrote music for an arcade game he is producing in France based on a graffiti artist called Zdey. I hope we can work together to produce a bigger project sometime soon, something that we can release. We are both great fans of Xevious and other arcade high score style games, so whenever we have time to do another project together, I’d love to do that. A dream project would include designing sound for a larger NES game where I could really get into building sonic atmosphere from the ground up. I haven’t found as much need for musicians as I have for artists, so I have tailored my skillset to meet demand. Working on graphics is great, but I’d like to someday spend as much energy and focus creating interesting soundscapes as I do currently when creating visuals. Sound is where my heart is. -Have you ever considered converting more of Space Raft’s music to chiptune and releasing them on cartridge albums like Zi with Bleep Bop Records? Yes and no. To be honest, the process of creating the music for the Space Raft game was pretty exhausting. Not only reducing a full four-piece band with three vocalists into four monophonic channels of audio, but doing so in a way that the music would also function well during gameplay was a major challenge for me. On the NES when you play a sound effect you temporarily replace an entire channel of audio, so if an important harmony riff or bassline is present, it just removes the section entirely. I had to place a lot of duplicate notes in the soundtrack to make sure that it sounded good in-game which is very inefficient with memory. Also, creating a game to suit a soundtrack is an entirely backwards and unorthodox approach…I can’t stress that enough. The whole experience actually had me yearning to focus more on improvising new original material. But yes, I am interested in someday doing a chiptune cartridge, but I’d be more interested in starting from scratch and writing something new. The creation process is what excites me, so getting further opportunity to explore the deep end of chiptune is definitely something I am interested in. I did a track called “Cyborg Forest Supply Company” on a compilation music cart Zi is producing. I look forward to getting that out into the world. It’s one of the boldest creative pieces I’ve come up with. I intended it to sound like if Tim Follin had scored a Metroid game starring Ryu Hayabusa. Straddling sci-fi ambience, hard rock, and “ninja on a treadmill” music, it’s like a mini chip-opera. I’d be really happy to do more of that sort of thing. I find the limitations of NES audio to be incredibly inspiring. -Are there any homebrew games in development that you are excited to play? At the moment I am more excited about key people working with the NES than specific projects. I’m a really big fan of Frankengraphics’ artwork. More so, finding her excellent blog was one of my very early influences. She established the high-water mark for me. She definitely gives me something to aspire to and helps shape my view that there is a lot of potential to unlock yet in the humble NES. I’ve been following her progress on Halcyon being developed by Nathan Tolbert whom I also admire. M-Tee GFX is another artist I look up to, he’s been a great resource for me as far as offering feedback while developing my pixel style. I’m grateful for his influence as he definitely inspires me to simply do better work. Brad Smith always has my attention with his projects, he has such an interesting philosophical approach to game creating that I really appreciate. I’m really excited by Orange Island, screenshots featuring the inclusion of a heavy Twin Bee shmup element in that game really caught my interest. I am always excited by multi-mechanic elements in NES games (Guardian Legend or Blaster Master). Seeing the heavily stylized pastel based artwork and hearing of the inclusion of many of the chip musicians I admire has my attention. Haradius Zero apparently has a sequel in development called Haratyler by Impact Soft for the Famicom, That one is important for me, I am big fan of Haradius Zero as I currently hold the HI score on the VGS leaderboards. So I’m really hoping that is also released on the NES. Dimension Shift is another one currently being developed by my friend Mugi, whom I met through the NESmaker community. Mugi’s artwork is fantastic and he is completely obsessed with the finer details of his engine. I am sure once that is finished it will be a high precision game per his own standards. Definitely worth watching out for. But really, I just try to be as supportive of the homebrew community as I can and try to purchase as many projects as I am able. Again, I view it all as a very legitimate creative pursuit so any attention I can raise for people making cool stuff on the NES the better. -I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me and share your experiences. Is there anything else you would like to tell readers and fans? My pleasure, it’s a great series. If I could offer any advice to aspiring NES developers, It would be to believe in your own crazy ideas and follow through with them. When I started researching for my project years ago it seemed insane. Now after completing it and looking at the reaction it got from people, it doesn’t seem so crazy after all. That goes for music too, you just have to be willing to put it out there. Conclusion: Thanks for tuning in to another episode of a series that takes deep dives into the latest and greatest homebrew games just coming across the finish line. What are your thoughts on Space Raft? Will it have you listening to Positively Space Raft as well? What other homebrews are you eagerly looking forward to? Perhaps you’ll see it here soon when…A Homebrew Draws Near! Command?
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